The protocol will support fish exports. (Seychelles News Agency)
Representatives from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), the fisheries ministry and the private sector have started discussions on draft protocol for experimental fisheries that will support fish exports from the island nation
During the half-day workshop on Thursday, stakeholders gave their inputs on developments they would like to see take place. It was also an opportunity for the private sector to establish how they can work with the authority and the ministry to develop the protocol.
An operational protocol for experimental fisheries provides step-by-step guidelines for the design and implementation of new fisheries as well as identifies new fishery resources that are under-utilised or test new fishing methods. At the moment Seychelles does not have a comprehensive experimental fisheries policy and no experimental fisheries protocol is in place.
The project’s consultant, Professor Warwick Sauer from Rhodes University in South Africa, shared that without a protocol in place when entering a new fishery, it often goes into what is called a boom-and-bust phase because the government takes a while to react and by the time it does, it is almost too late.
“There is a chance that you can overfish before you set in place regulations, and for Seychelles, it is important to avoid this. When you set up a new fishery, you want it to be sustainable. Just fishing without a protocol might result in the gear destroying the bottom or too much is being caught during periods when fish are spawning,” explained Sauer.
The deputy chief executive of SFA, Ashik Hassan, outlined that “it is important to ensure that we have the required quantity and that it will be sustainable to export them when developing new products.”
He added that “the protocol being developed is for experimental fisheries. There are certain species such as the ruby snapper, flame snapper, crimson jobfish, deep-sea shrimp, and squid that the authority and the private sector do not really know the process needed to be undertaken before entering these fisheries. At the moment, some of these species are not being highly valued on the international market and before we can develop a project to add value to these products, we need to ensure that we have a robust management system in place.”
Setting up the protocol starts with analysing existing information on the species to be targeted and identifying information gaps. Where need be, data can also be generated through field surveys.
“The Seychelles government, SFA and the ministry will then be able to evaluate whether this is a good idea and then to give the necessary permission to go out and to do that for a period of time. This is what is called exploratory fishery. If that’s successful, then normally the next step would be experimental fishing for a number of years, which is set up then to test the markets and see how successful it all is, and if that is successful, you then enter into a fully-fledged commercial fishery,” said Sauer.