The 2021/2022 lobster season recorded a total catch of 2045 kilogrammes of lobsters. (Seychelles Fishing Authority)
A significant decrease in the net catch of lobsters for the 2021/2022 season compared to the previous one may be due to a reduction in lobsters and a survey taking place is expected to confirm if that is the case.
The 2021/2022 lobster season recorded a total catch of 2045 kilogrammes of lobsters as compared to a total of 6140 kilogrammes from the previous year, representing a 67 percent decrease from the 2020/2021 season.
During this season, the catch per unit effort, an indirect measure of the abundance of a target species in fisheries, also went down. With a total of 103 fishing trips recorded, the catch per unit effort stood at 19.9 kilogrammes per trip.
A report from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) stated that “this is possibly a sign of reduced lobster abundance, however, this will be confirmed after the 2022 fisheries independent survey to be held in October.”
The survey was expected to be completed in November this year and SFA’s fisheries scientist, Kettyna Gabriel, told SNA that the Participatory Lobster Monitoring Programme (PLMP) survey is undertaken each year by the authority.
“It assesses the lobster stock using several indicators, such as the index of abundance, catch and effort indicator, and the length-based indicators. From the 2021 PLMP survey, the overall catch of lobsters and the catch per unit effort data indicated that the relative abundance and biomass of all lobsters caught decreased. From the ongoing PLMP survey, along with the recommendation that will be made, the fisheries management will take the decision as to if the 2022/2023 lobster season will open,” said Gabriel.
Shortened by the SFA, the 2021/2022 lobster fishery opened in December 2021 and closed in February 2022, providing fishers with only two months to catch these sea crustaceans. This is one month less than the normal season, which usually ends in March.
In 2021, the SFA announced this change as data collected earlier during the same year showed that the size of lobsters being caught was below the minimum landing size.
According to SFA, a size of 7.5 cm 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. The catching of egg-bearing female lobsters also affects the rate at which the stock replenishes.
In Seychelles, an island archipelago of the western Indian Ocean, 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 ornate spiny lobster was the only species not caught by the 16 licensed fishers.