Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Zaha Waheed stated Monday that the government did not renew licenses for longlining fishing boats, following warnings issued by the European Union (EU) over illegal practices.
Addressing Monday's parliament sitting on the invitation of Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Minister Zaha revealed that the EU warned to impose a Europe-wide ban on the importation of Maldivian fish products should illegal longline practices continue.
EU noted that the violations committed by such vessels were severe enough to warrant a total ban on Maldivian fish products, she said.
Some of the illegal practices highlighted by the minister included the illegal exchanges of the catch and crew between vessels, as well as the fishing of yellow-fin tuna which are normally caught sustainably via pole-and-line fishing in Maldives. Longline vessels are only licensed to fish bigeye tuna.
The government decided against the renewal of longlining licenses under the current regulation in light of such practices, according to the minister. She went on to assure that the government aimed to implement a new regulation on longline fishing, which would ensure profit for the fishermen. She added that the new bill on the fisheries act was compiled based on concerns and issues brought forward by the fisher communities.
Minister Zaha further highlighted that Maldivians did not reap the full benefits from longlining, as 90 percent of the fishermen employed in the field were expatriates.
The fisheries minister was invited to address the lawmakers after five resolutions were submitted to the parliament, seeking to prevent foreign vessels from longline fishing in Maldivian waters. The MPs debated on the resolutions during the sitting.
Meanwhile, some local fishermen took to social media after the fisheries ministry's announcement regarding licenses, where they expressed concerns over the possibility of losing jobs.