Afif said that the government has seen a significant increase in the number of longline vessels. (Seychelles News Agency)
The Seychelles government has imposed a moratorium on the importation and chartering of longline fishing vessels for use in the semi-industrial tuna fishery with immediate effect and amended the Citizenship Act.
The decision to enforce the moratorium until June 2024 was taken by the Cabinet of Ministers during their meeting at State House on Wednesday.
Addressing the need for such a moratorium in a press conference on Thursday, the Vice President, Ahmed Afif, shared that the government has seen a significant increase in the number of longline vessels though there is limited fish stock.
“With the increase in vessels, productivity by each vessel has dropped considerably. Some of these boat owners are facing difficulties to pay off their loans,” said Afif.
He said that “around four years ago there were 36 vessels and today there are 55 vessels. That means that in 2019, they were spending about 158 days at sea, and today they need to remain longer at sea to get the same amount of fish because there are more vessels competing for the same resources.”
The Cabinet also agreed to take this decision given the numerous challenges in the sector such as congestion in the fishing ports due to lack of berthing space. Other challenges are the capacity for the provision of inputs such as ice, accommodating foreign crew, and a lack of clear development and management strategies for the small scale longline fishery.
The Cabinet also approved amendments to the Citizenship Act. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2023, stipulates the criteria for eligibility for citizenship, the process for applying for citizenship, the taking of the oath, and public access to the register of citizenship.
“Under the Act, there is Article 5,1 where the President could grant citizenship due to merit. We see that in the past a lot of citizenship has been granted on this basis. We decided that Article 5,1 should be modified,” said Afif.
He explained that “the President will still be able to give a passport to a foreigner on the basis of merit but there will be an eligibility committee that will make recommendations to the President. This means that it will not be solely up to the President to make this decision.”
He also shared that the government wants to formalise under the law that a foreigner married to a Seychellois can apply for citizenship after 15 years of marriage. The person will also need to prove that he or she has been staying in Seychelles for a period of a minimum of two years.
Cabinet also approved amendments to the National Identity Card Act to permit the chief officer of the Civil Status Department to issue a national identity card to a citizen of Seychelles who applies for a national identity card.
With the amendment, any citizen of Seychelles may apply for and be issued a national identity card upon submitting proof of citizenship of Seychelles. This includes the Seychelles diaspora. A citizen residing in Seychelles for more than three months will, however, continue to be obligated to hold a national identity card.