Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Maldives

The 2008 Constitution of Maldives outlines a ‘fundamental duty of the state to protect and preserve the biodiversity, resources and beauty of the country for the benefit of present and future generations’ as well as ensuring every citizen has the right to a safe environment. This provision serves as the foundation for strengthening environmental regulation in the nation. There are three relevant ministries in Maldives:

  • The Ministry for Environment and Energy
  • The Ministry for Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources
  • The Ministry of Tourism

  • The development of environmental policies falls under the jurisdiction of these Ministries, and the departments beneath them, within their respective portfolios. The Environmental Protection Agency leads the enforcement of said policies with assistance from Maldives Police Services and Maldives Customs Service. Decentralised governance structures also work in tandem with the agency; for example, the Act on Decentralisation of the Administrative Divisions of the Maldives (Law No. 7/2010) empowers islands, atolls and city councils to adopt regulations and policies.

    Featured Legislation

    1987: The Fisheries Law of the Maldives (Law No. 5/87) was signed. The legislation governs fishing, capturing or taking of living resources in the seas of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Maldives. The Ministry of Fisheries is empowered to formulate and administer regulations on matters relating to fisheries and shall oversee all fisheries activities in the country (sect. 3). Commercial fishing by foreigners or Maldivians jointly with foreigners, requires a permission of the Ministry of Trade and Industries (sect. 5).

    1993: The Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (Law No. 4.93) was passed. This Act lays down the basic principles and rules of environment protection in the Maldives. Environmental guidance shall be provided by the government bodies concerned (sect. 2). The Ministry of Planning, Human Resources and Environment shall be responsible for formulating policies, as well as rules and regulations regarding the environment in areas that do not already have a designated government authority to carry out such functions (sect. 3).

    1996: The Sewage Disposal Regulations were introduced. The purpose of these Regulations is to require any public or private sewage disposal undertaking to provide a service that has adequate capacity for all its customers, and to treat and dispose of sewage in a way which shall protect public health and the environment. Undertakings shall obtain a licence from the Maldives Water and Sanitation Authority. Licences shall be valid for 12 months renewable.

    2002: The Maldivian Land Act was instituted, providing for the allocation of Maldivian land for different purposes and uses; the issuing of land and state dwellings for residential purposes and for the sale; and the transfer and lease of Maldivian land.

    2006: A Regulation on the Protection and Conservation of Environment in the Tourism Industry was created, protecting the environment in the tourism industry and to encourage and facilitate sustainable development of tourism by stipulating standards for the protection and conservation of the environment.

    2006: The Regulation for the Chopping, Uprooting, Removing and Transfer of Palms and Trees between Islands was put forward, seeking to prevent deforestation by prohibiting the removal of coastal vegetation extending 15 metres inland from the outermost trees closest to the beach, including mangroves and wetland species.

    2007: The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations were brought into force, making provisions with respect to criteria and procedures for determining whether Development Proposals have an environmental impact. The first Part contains definitions and other general provisions. Part 2 outlines the planning stage of Environmental Impact Assessment and refers to Schedule B of these Regulations for a checklist of criteria for the selection of development sites.

    2007: A Regulation on Migratory Birds was created, prohibiting activities that could harm seasonal migratory birds. 

    2015: The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution Vision recognizes the status of Maldives as a nation suffering from the adverse impacts of climate change and to build its capacity to ensure a safe, sustainable and resilient and prosperous future. Maldives aims to achieve a low emission development future and ensure energy security. Maldives is focusing its efforts, actions and undertakings in reducing its GHG emissions in the energy sector. These actions and undertakings will be based on strategies and sectoral action plans designed, amongst others, for the following areas of intervention: energy, tourism, waste, water, and building sectors. Maldives aims to undertake adaptation actions and opportunities and build climate resilient infrastructure to address the current and future impacts of climate change. As a minimal contributor to global GHG emissions, Maldives places a significant priority on adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change.

    2019: The Fisheries Act of the Maldives (No. 14/2019) was unveiled. This Act provides for the sustainable management of fisheries and marine resources and their ecosystems in the maritime zones of the Maldives, provides for the control of fishing by all persons within the maritime zones of the Maldives as well as fishing by Maldivians outside the maritime zones of the Maldives, and lays down the principles and bases for the development and management of the fisheries and aquaculture industry. The Act consists of 88 sections divided into 12 Chapters: Preamble (1); Implementation of Law (2); Fisheries Planning and Management (3); Fishing and Related Activities in the Maritime Zones of the Maldives (4); Fishing Beyond the Maritime Zones of the Maldives (5); Deterring Illegal Fishing (6); Licensing Rules (7); Aquaculture (8); Monitoring, Control and Surveillance System (9); Offences and Penalties (10); Jurisdiction and Assumptions (11); Miscellaneous (12). “Related activities" in this Act is defined to include, among other things, transhipment of fish or fisheries products to a vessel or from a vessel to another place and refueling or supplying fuel to fishing vessels or providing any activity or service in support of fishing operations.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • One of the most important sectors in the Maldivian economy, fishing contributes 3 percent to the country’s GDP. Recently, The Ministry for Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources expressed concern over the sustainability of the fisheries sector and food security in the country. Policies have been drafted to safeguard the nation’s fish stocks, promoting sustainable fisheries. One of the most challenging problems in this sector is Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. A National Plan of Action to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing was established by the Maldivian Government in 2019. The plan ensures that the Maldives complies with its international obligations under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the main, illegal fishing is conducted by vessels, both local and foreign, without the statutory permits, in violation of laws enacted by the Maldives within its maritime zones. These entities do not report catches to the relevant authorities, exploiting fisheries resources due to destructive fishing methods. IUU accounts for approximately 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of tuna being exported out of the Maldives annually.  The nation’s GDP was 5.3 billion USD in 2018: And a recent government brief reveals that IUU fishing amounted to a loss of 12 -19 million USD in 2018. What is needed, according to officials, is more funding and capacity constraints for at-sea enforcement.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology: