Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO) is not in a financially viable position to resume purchasing yellowfin tuna catches from fishers, Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam said Wednesday.

The Minister’s comments were aimed at addressing concerns raised by fishers during protests on 50 fishing vessels which began at the ‘Kanneli Jetty’ area in Hulhumalé Wednesday morning, and later shifted to the No. 1 Jetty area in Malé. The Minister visited the protest area on Wednesday evening to hear the concerns.

One of the main concerns of the fishers is that the administration has not yet started buying yellowfin tuna catch via MIFCO as promised.

“I can say very clearly that this year we will not be able to buy yellowfin tuna from fishers. MIFCO is not in that situation,” he said.

MIFCO will be able to purchase fish as promised only if the company’s financial situation improves, the Minister said, explaining that the administration was already working to that end.

“Hopefully, the day will come when the administration will buy yellowfin tuna as promised by the President [Mohamed Muizzu]. We want to fulfil the President’s promises made at the beginning of the term,” he said.

Fishers, however, have decided to continue their protest if the administration does not respond to their demands and concerns which, in addition to the sale of fish to MIFCO, include advocating against administration’s plans to reintroduce industrial fishing practices in the country that would adversely affect the livelihoods of the largely pole and line fishers and endanger fish stock.

The Minister had previously highlighted that even as the administration was discussing allowing longline fishing as part of its efforts to generate revenue, should it go forward, it would be with greater precautions in place than in the past.

The administration aims to take commercial advantage of larger quota given to the Maldives by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). While discussions on issuing permits were ongoing, a decision will only be taken after consulting with all stakeholders, the Ministry of Fisheries and Ocean Resources had said.