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Seychelles' lobster fishery: Illegal fishing could be cause of decline in stocks

Victoria, Seychelles | June 21, 2024, Friday @ 16:17 in Business » FISHERIES | By: Alisa Uzice Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 4177
Seychelles' lobster fishery: Illegal fishing could be cause of decline in stocks

The survey examined the commonly caught lobsters - the pronghorn spiny lobster, the long-legged spiny lobster, and the painted spiny lobster. (Seychelles Fishing Authority)

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The recent results of the lobster fishery independent survey show that illegal fishing could be causing a decline in the abundance of lobsters near the Seychelles' inner islands.

Speaking to SNA at a validation workshop to present the survey results, the senior fisheries scientist at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Kettyna Gabriel, said the survey found that there were more lobsters in areas near the outer islands such as Bird Island and Denis Island compared to the Mahe plateau area.

"We suspect that this may be because of fishing pressure. We are all aware that a high amount of IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) illegal fishing is happening even if there is a closed season. And the Mahe area would be a prime target given its proximity and the fact that you would need bigger boats and equipment to fish near the outer islands," she said. 

Gabriel elaborated that following this survey, they concluded that a comprehensive stock assessment needs to be done for lobster.

"This survey was essentially a snapshot of what the situation is concerning the lobster population in Seychelles, therefore, we need more investigation. Following that, we would then be able to implement certain management measures depending on the results we get," she explained.  

The survey was conducted from October to November last year three different kinds of lobsters found in Seychelles were examined - the pronghorn spiny lobster, the long-legged spiny lobster, and the painted spiny lobster.

Gabriel said after the survey, the conclusion is that a comprehensive stock assessment needs to be done for lobster.  (Seychelles Fishing Authority) Photo License: CC-BY 

Gabriel said in the future SFA wants to do more research near the outer islands to get a clearer picture of the distribution of lobsters compared to Mahe.

Present at the validation workshop was Seychellois fisheries specialist and consultant, Dr Ameer Ebrahim, who presented the outcome of the work done by FishPath over the past few years. The FishPath Network provides a platform for exchanging knowledge and sharing lessons, intending to produce concrete products that directly support small-scale fisheries.

The SFA has been working actively with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) since 2021 to identify challenges and find solutions to develop a harvest strategy for the lobster fishery. During a scoping mission in 2019, TNC met with Seychelles' government and SFA, and it was decided that FishPath would be used to identify problems and solutions with the spanner crab and lobster fishery in the island nation.  

Ebrahim, who is also working as a consultant with TNC, is leading the FishPath process in Seychelles.  He was invited to become a global FishPath member in 2023, making him the first Seychellois to be given this recognition as a global fisheries expert.

In Seychelles there has been a tailored approach to the FishPath process, not focusing solely on the tool but identifying the importance of bringing fishers into the discussion and the accompanying capacity-building and technical support that FishPath brings. The most recent exercise was done in the first week of May 2024 in partnership with some committed lobster fishermen and the SFA.

Ebrahim told SNA that illegal fishing was found as a major issue facing fisheries management for lobster in Seychelles, even though there are already certain measures in place. He noted that the SFA lacks enforcement capacity to deal with illegal fishers, including recreational fishers.

He said through consultations, the fishers said they felt penalised because while they have ensured they have a licence and follow policies in place, illegal fishing is still rampant.

Ebrahim added that through FishPath, they have determined that more needs to be done to address illegal fishing before further management measures are imposed on the licenced fishery.

He elaborated that potential solutions include more education and awareness programmes about illegal fishing and also exploring a potential tagging programme for lobster to help enforcement.

"The FishPath team is preparing a detailed document for SFA. Now SFA will need to review the results based on FishPath and decide for themselves what is feasible and what's not. This will be based on several factors such as budgetary constraints. Fisheries management can be expensive, for example, stock assessments can cost millions of rupees. So, all of this has to be taken into consideration before management decisions are taken," said Ebrahim.

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Tags: Seychelles Fishing Authority, FishPath, Mahe Plateau, The Nature Conservancy

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