Parliament will prioritise legislation to protect the local fisheries industry ahead of the Eid al-Adha break in August, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed said on Monday.
The former president’s pledge came after four resolutions related to the fisheries industry were submitted by MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.
The resolutions call on the government to set up offshore fishing platforms, support a ban on trawling within the Indian Ocean, outlaw foreign fishing vessels from the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and establish island-level fish processing through public-private partnerships initiated by local councils.
Fisheries Minister Zaha Waheed was in attendance to listen to debates on the resolutions.
Nasheed said that the concerns raised in the four resolutions were addressed in amendments to the Fisheries Sector Act currently under review by the government ahead of submission to parliament. The proposed changes were also part of the MDP’s legislative agenda, he noted.
The speaker informed lawmakers that he intends to put the non-binding resolutions to a vote before the Eid holidays in mid-August. If MPs approve, sittings could also be held at night to complete the debates, he said.
Enacted in 1987, the present fisheries sector law consists of 14 articles. The planned revisions would add over 80 new provisions to the law, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Banning foreign vessels from fishing in Maldivian waters was a campaign pledge of the MDP.
Last Friday, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih attended a public forum with fishermen on the southern island of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll. The theme of the third Jazeera Holhuashi forum was increasing profit from fishing.
Concerns raised by southern fishermen included the employment of expatriates on boats, high import duties on fisheries equipment, lack of information about a ‘digital wallet’ financial scheme launched in February, and the discontinuation of services from Horizon Fisheries in Gaafu Dhaalu.
The Maldives fisheries industry performed strongly in 2017 with the volume of exports growing by 55 percent in annual terms and amounting to 72.0 thousand metric tonnes. But exports declined in the first half of 2018.
In March, the new administration asked the European Union to consider granting duty free access to fisheries products, the country’s chief export.