The Environment Protection Agency has fined a Maldivian man MVR111,500 (US$7,200) for capturing and keeping protected birds in his backyard on the island of Dhonfanu in Baa atoll.
The hefty fine is the first of its kind imposed by the EPA for caging protected bird species.
The protected birds, including a ruddy turnstone, golden plover, grey plover, owls and eagles, were confiscated during an operation conducted by the police, the EPA said in a statement on Monday.
The EPA did not reveal the identity of the offender.
Ibrahim Naeem, the EPA’s director general, told local media that the agency hopes the fine would put a stop to the capture of protected bird species.
The fine would also serve to raise awareness among the public that capturing birds is prohibited by law, he said.
Capturing birds is a seasonal pastime across the Maldives, but the EPA did not previously take steps to discourage the practice.
The EPA is authorised to impose large fines by regulations enacted under the Maldives’ environment protection law for seeking compensation for environmental damages.
Earlier this year, the EPA also fined MVR12,000 (US$700) each for three men from the island of Maavah in Laamu atoll for capturing turtles.
In September last year, the arrest of 13 Maldivians caught in Laamu Atoll with three sea turtles and buckets of eggs and turtle meat revived concern among environmentalists over the government’s failure to impose fines for harming marine life.
Catching or killing of sea turtle species, as well as the importation and sale of turtles and turtle products, have been banned in the Maldives since 1995.
In October this year, the police seized 17 styrofoam boxes full of turtle shells from a home on the island of Buruni. After the owner of the home said the turtle shells were brought from a shop’s warehouse in Malé, the police raided it and confiscated a further nine boxes.
The police also confiscated 92 smoked shark fins from the northern island of Kulhudhuffushi last September after photos of dried fins put out in the sun to be smoked began circulating on social media.
Chief Superintendent Mohamed Shiham said at the time the police have launched special efforts to crack down on environmental crimes.
Information for raising public awareness about conservation and environment protection will be provided through the EPA and the environment ministry, he said.