Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) has begun releasing payments to address a total outstanding amount of around MVR 300 million to fishermen for skipjack tuna sold to the company over three months.

The state’s fisheries company, MIFCO, said in a statement that the schedule, and other details, of the payment will be released and will reflect what was agreed during meetings held with the fishermen at Kooddoo.

This came after President Mohamed Muizzu, speaking at Thinadhoo on Tuesday night, called on fishermen to stop the protest at Kooddoo and begin negotiations in order to address their concerns.

“Even I [myself] am also ready to discuss whether it is tonight or tomorrow, so if we talk in a consultative manner and do things in a noble manner, things will happen,” he said, encouraging talks between MIFCO and the fishermen.

MIFCO CEO Ahmed Shamah Rasheed had, on Monday, assured fishermen gathered at Kooddoo that MVR 119 million had already been sourced in in order to begin payouts, also sharing details on how the money would be paid out.

Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam, speaking to local media, said that the administration was working to release MVR 70 million within the week and that another MVR 30 million will be released on Sunday.

Fisheries Minister Ahmed Shiyam had earlier said that all outstanding amounts would be paid before 5 March. MVR 100 million will be paid out before Monday, the minister said during Parliamentary question time on Tuesday.

While the matter of overdue payments came to a head three months into the new administration, with the fishermen saying they had not been paid consistently for two months, there was a backlog of MVR 250 million when it took office, the Muizzu administration had said.

The current outstanding to fishermen hovers around MVR 300 million.

The issue grew even more heated when fishermen, on Saturday, began protesting at the MIFCO facility in Kooddoo saying they would continue making their voices heard until the bulk of the money was paid. Fishermen belonging to various vessels told local media that each vessel had at least MVR 4 million that MIFCO had yet failed to pay.

MIFCO’s current financial woes are most easily traced back to 16 September 2023, when the previous administration revised the per-kilo purchase price of skipjack tuna from MVR 17 to MVR 25 in the lead-up to the second-round run-off of the presidential elections despite rumoured reservations within MIFCO.