Seychelles Fishing Authority shortens lobster season to 2 months due to fishers harvesting undersized ones
According to SFA, the size of 7.5 cm is considered as the size of maturity for lobsters. (Seychelles Fishing Authority)
(Seychelles News Agency) - As fishers are harvesting lobsters that are below the legal minimum landing size, the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) will shorten the fishing season for the species from three to two months, a top official said.
"Data collected through research in 2021 has shown a change in the lobster sizes fishermen is bringing in during the open season. This means that we have to make some changes this year," said the chief executive officer, Nichol Elizabeth.
According to SFA, the size of 7.5 cm is considered as 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.
Lobster harvesting season in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is open for three months every two years.
"What we have found in our data is that the size of lobsters being caught was worrying and although we will still open the season, we will not do so for three months, but only two instead," said Elizabeth.
The lobster season opened on December 17 and will close on February 24 next year.
The CEO said that based on the data collected during this year's season, a decision will be made as to whether to re-open the season in 2022 or if it will remain close for a longer period of time.
Only a handful of people are given the licenses for each season. Once the license is issued a contract is signed and if there is a breach the fisher loses their $236 deposit and can face a fine of $945.
Elizabeth also confirmed that they would not reduce the number of licenses it issues this year.
One of the main challenges the local fishing authorities in the Seychelles have faced over the years is the amount of illegal lobster fishing taking place.
"We are aware of certain individuals selling lobsters to tourism establishments when the season is not open. We have also seen that potentially the illegal fishing may be bigger that the licenses that we provide," he added.
To curb the illegal activity, SFA has warned that it will be more serious with its enforcement.
Fishers caught catching and killing lobsters in the Seychelles' waters without a valid fishing license will pay a maximum penalty of SCR 10,000 ( $741) or have their licenses revoked.
Whereas the law also charges people who buy illegally fished lobsters- therefore unable to produce an SFA license - are also liable to the same amount in fines.
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.