Fishing boats waited in line for 11 hours to weigh and sell their catch, as fishermen protested over the low amounts of ice following a record one-day catch in the south.
Boats which had queued on Sunday evening were still in line at dawn on Monday, with ten boats waiting to weigh their haul from the previous day.
Fisherman Ismail Shareef from Guruvan boat of Kolamaafushi island in Gaaf Alif atoll complained about the discrimination in weighing fish and ice supplies.
“Each vessel is usually given two tons of ice. But now some boats are given four tons and six tons. They do it after checking our political affiliation,” he told local media.
The Kooddoo fish factory, owned by the public Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company, buys a kilo of frozen fish for MVR20 and unfrozen fish for MVR16.
But Shareef accused Kooddoo of weighing frozen fish as unfrozen fish in order to pay a smaller amount.
MIFCO CEO Ramzee Abubakuru said there was an incident last year when the catch had to be thrown away because Kooddoo was unable to weigh the fish.
He said a mechanism was in place to ensure there would be no repeat incident this year and that ice would first be provided to boats that came with a catch.
He also addressed complaints about the ice shortage, saying demand skyrocketed when there was an increase in the catch.
Fishing boats docked in Thinadhoo island, of Gaaf Dhaal atoll, were upset Sunday night when they could not get ice from the largest plant in the south of the country.
One fisherman, from Dharuma boat of Dhevvadhoo island in Gaaf Alif atoll, told Mihaaru they had been in line since 2:00 pm but could not get any ice by 11:00pm.
Those who were waiting got angry when a vessel that arrived with fish was given ice before the others.
MIFCO boss Adhlee Ismail said the fishermen were upset when ice was provided to a vessel that came with 17 tons of fish.
He said there was a difficulty in providing ice because of shortages from Kooddoo as the “ice production dropped when power freezing capacity changed in the Kooddoo ice plant.”
The 50-ton ice plant in Thinadhoo has the largest capacity in the south. The eight ice plants in the south can produce 200 tons of ice per day.
“All ice plants in the south are operating right now with seven of them working 24 hours a day. But it will be difficult when all the boats come to one ice plant,” Adhlee said.
Lawmaker Saud Hussain, representing Villingili constituency in the south, criticised the government’s “failed and corrupt” policy.
“MIFCO must be able to buy the day’s catch from fishermen. This situation repeats every time there is a fishing boom and it shows the government’s incapability. This situation comes because of the low attention to the fisheries sector and the corruption within the company,” he tweeted.
A spokesman for the fisheries ministry was unavailable for comment at the time of going press.
Local media reported a record catch of 600 tons on Saturday in the south, as the country experiences a better than expected fishing season.