Parliamentarians call for major revisions to Fisheries Bill

Parliamentarians pictured during a sitting. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Parliamentarians have called for major revisions to the government’s Fisheries Bill.

Fisheries Bill was submitted to the Parliament on behalf of the government by Ihavandhoo MP Mohamed Shifau.

The preliminary debate on the bill began at the Parliament this Monday, and many parliamentarians pointed out that the bill needed to be refined. They also pointed out that none of the five fisheries resolutions which were recently passed by the Parliament had been incorporated into the bill.

Maavashu MP Mohamed Saeed said the bill was too constricting.

“This is a huge 70-page legislature, and at the end of it, it seems as if a huge lock is being put on fishermen,” said Saeed, who served as Economic Minister during the former administration.

Maavashu MP Mohamed Saeed. (Photo/People's Majlis)

He accused the 70-page bill of being made up of unrealistic plans, and said the bill, if passed without revisions, would not result in any development to the fisheries industry.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla also spoke of the need to revise the bill during committee stage.

She said that many of the clauses in the bill needed to be detailed, and that the underlying purpose of the bill should be to increase the income of fisheries industry stakeholders.

North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla. (Photo/People's Majlis)

“This is the very reason why this bill should be revised. To ensure Maldivian fishermen too, receive the high sale price for fish as in the international market. And to ensure a sustainable income to the fishermen and seafarers for the work they do,” said Eva.

She also spoke of the need to add clauses towards protection of rights of fishermen, and ensure pension to fishermen, and detail a mechanism recruit and develop young fishermen.

Velidhoo MP Mohamed Abdulla Shafeeq said that some of the contents of the five fisheries resolutions passed by the Parliament in July were missing from the bill. He said that it was something which needed to be remedied during the committee evaluation process.

He also expressed alarm over the clause in the bill which allows search and seizure of fish factories without a court warrant.

“We, when we make laws, need to constrict the room for exploitation of laws. Maldivian laws are drafted in such a way that it has always been used by the people in power to serve their political needs. This is how it has generally always been,” said Shafeeq.

Velidhoo MP Mohamed Abdulla Shafeeq. (Photo/People's Majlis)

The bill focuses less on increasing profitability of fishermen and more on allocating additional powers to the Fisheries Ministry and Fisheries Minister, and details penalties for fishermen.

The bill prohibits several types of fishing techniques using fish nets, as well as use of spearguns, explosives, poison or any type of chemical.

Refusal to cooperate with law enforcement officers is punishable by a fine of MVR 200,000, and establishment of an ice plant or fish factory without necessary licenses has been established as an offense punishable by a fine of MVR 400,000 each from the owner of the ice plant or fish factory and the operator.

The Fisheries Bill empowers the Fisheries Ministry with the authority to fine fisheries industry stakeholders. However, no civil penalty may be meted out without providing the accused the opportunity to defend him/herself first.