Success of Seychelles' first voluntary fisheries closure zone - An example that should inspire others, says fisheries minister
In the initiative, a group of fishermen decided to close part of the Baie Ste Anne Area for fisheries activities for a period of six months. (Gerard Larose)
Fishermen in Seychelles are being encouraged to take initiatives that will help protect fish stocks instead of waiting for the government to come up with programmes, the island state's fisheries minister said on Tuesday.
Jean-Francois Ferrari made the statement to students at Mont Fleuri secondary school during a presentation on the success of the first voluntary fisheries zone closure by fishermen from Baie Ste Anne on Praslin Island, the second most populated island of Seychelles.
In the initiative, a group of fishermen decided to close part of the Baie Ste Anne Area for fisheries activities for a period of six months to allow the fish stock to replenish and improve the size of the catch.
"This is an example that should inspire others to take the initiative and not just wait for the government to come up with programmes that will benefit everyone," said Ferrari.
Darell Green, the chairman of the Praslin Fishers Association, explained to the students that "during the northeast trade winds season, which lasts from November to April, fishermen usually fish much further from the shore as the sea is calm. During the southwest monsoon, when the sea is rough, fishermen stay within the bay closer to shore."
Therefore, the association decided to close the bay for fishing activities from November 1 to April 30, as fishermen can go further off shore during that time and thus allow for the growth and reproduction of the fish in the area.
Green said that the project has been successful as studies conducted after the second year of closure showed a rise in the weight of the total fish caught in fish traps as well as the average size of the fish caught.
The study showed that before the voluntary closure was put in place, the average weight of fish traps was 1.8kg, compared to over 7kg after the second closure.
Meanwhile, the average size of fish caught in the bay after the second closure was up to 21cm compared to 14.5cm before the closure was put in place.
This was confirmed by Dr Jude Bijoux, a biologist from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), who said that there is evidence that most fish reproduce during the northeast trade winds compared to when the sea is rougher between May to October.
"When we came up with the idea for the project, there were a number of fishermen who were sceptical about it, but with the results, we have seen more of them come on board," added Green.
He explained that they were inspired by a similar project carried out in Rodrigues, an autonomous island of Mauritius, where a fisheries closure has been placed on the octopus.
Ferrari said that the government has no intention of interfering with the current project of the Baie Ste Anne Fishermen.
"We just want to offer our support to such ideas and programmes. The fishermen realised that their livelihoods and that of their children depend on sustainable fisheries and so came up with the project on their own, with no intervention from the government. To us, this is an example that should be followed by others," he added.
The Baie Ste Anne Fishers Association will now be looking towards the future, where they are looking at making this annual closure permanent.