Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) has not paid fishermen, with dues ranging back over two months, for the catch sold to the state-owned fisheries company, according to some fishermen.

Fishermen in the northern region of the country, where fishing is most prevalent, have raised the issue with some urgency, with the Haa Alifu Atoll Ihavandhoo Fisherman’s Association noting, “The fishermen are saying that they have not received their money for more than two months.”

The Thaa Atoll Guraidahoo Fishermen’s Association shared similar concerns in a video message to social media three days ago. “It has been a couple of months now that we have not received the money. Even one island has about MVR 50 million outstanding. Why is it being delayed?” a fisherman from Guraidhoo Island asks in the video.

The Thaa Atoll Hirilandhoo Fishermen’s Association also posted to social media urging for the government to settle dues to fishermen ‘immediately.’

Former Managing Director at State Trading Oorganization (STO) Hussain Amr, who has close ties to islands in Huvadhoo Atoll, also expressed concern over the issue. “I have been receiving a lot of complaints that the fishermen have not received their money for the fish they sold to the government [MIFCO] for more than a month,” Amr said in a post on social media.

Meanwhile, MIFCO’s Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Samah Rasheed has yet to respond to media queries regarding the issue.

While the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources, Ahmed Shiyam, announced on Fishermen’s Day, 10 December, that the Mohamed Muizzu administration had, upon taking office, paid MVR 190 million out of the outstanding MVR 200 million to fishermen, President Muizzu stated on the same day that there remained an outstanding MVR 140 million to be paid to fishermen.

MIFCO’s recent financial difficulties is most readily traced back to 17 September 2023, when the company increased the per kilogramme buying rate of skipjack tuna, by a whopping 47 percent, from MVR 17 to MVR 25 — an action widely speculated to have been a political decision and one that experts and analysts, at the time, saw as irreconcilable with global market rates.

With media reports of difficulties within MIFCO due to the ill-advised price hike, the Muizzu administration’s Fisheries Minister Shiyam, upon taking office, confirmed that the MVR 25 kilogram rate was untenable. Shiyam had then committed to, via consultations with stakeholders, lower the price — while President Muizzu had set a floor price for the reduction at ‘not below MVR 20.’