Lobster fishing: Seychelles' season to open only for 2 months in 2023
Lobster harvesting season in Seychelles traditionally opens for three months every two years. (Seychelles Fishing Authority)
Seychelles' lobster fishing season will open for only two months in 2023 as a recent survey shows a reduction in catch rate, the amount being caught, and the number of juveniles.
In a recent press conference of the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), it was outlined that the lobster season will open on January 15 to March 14 next year, maintaining a two-month season for two consecutive years.
Lobster harvesting season in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, traditionally opens for three months every two years.
SFA's head of the fisheries research department, Rodney Govinden, explained that the authority is taking a precautionary approach to maintaining a season that opens for two months so that stock can be kept at a manageable level.
He said that through a survey carried out on 20 sites in the west of Mahe in October, SFA saw that there are concerns about the number of juvenile lobsters that were caught.
"In a previous survey, there was a balance where 50 percent were juvenile lobsters and 50 percent were adult-sized. During this survey, we saw that there was a reduction in the number of juveniles from 50 to 40 percent. When the season is opened consecutively, which is the case for the past three years, we have noticed that there is a reduction in the number of lobsters being caught as well as the catch rate," said Govinden.
Despite this observation, SFA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries, decided to open the 2023 season as the same survey showed that there has been a slight increase in the size of the lobsters caught. An increase of 25 percent in the abundance of fishable-sized lobster was observed compared to the previous survey.
According to SFA, a carapace size of 7.5 centimetres is considered the size of maturity for lobsters, hence capturing them before they reach this minimum size, deprived them of the opportunity to reproduce to replenish the stock. No egg-bearing females are to be caught as well.
The four local species of lobsters are the long-legged spiny lobster, the pronghorn spiny lobster, the ornate spiny lobster and the painted spiny lobster. The long-legged spiny lobster and the pronghorn spiny lobster are the most-caught species.
A total of 16 licenses - 10 on Mahe, four on Praslin and two on La Digue - will be issued for the season. These licenses will not be reallocated should they not be filled up on a particular island so as to limit pressure on the stock.
The license costs SCR500 ($38) and fishers are also obliged to pay a compliance bond at SCR5,000 ($379). At the end of the season, the fee of the compliance bond is refunded. This is to ensure that the fishermen participating in this fishery do not commit any offense.
The assistant manager for license and permit, Karyss Auguste, outlined that the sale of licenses will start on January 9 and the season will open on January 15.
"It will remain on a first come first serve basis and we are accepting applications in person only. All fishers taking part must have a VMS [vessel monitoring system] or SVTU [small vessel tracking unit] system on their vessel. This is a monitoring tool that SFA has put in place to ensure that there isn't any illegal lobster fishing that is taking place," said Auguste.