Seychelles voted against a proposal for the implementation of one of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission‘s (IOTC) latest adoptions of fish aggregating devices as the decision made was not science-based and is influenced by commercial interest.
During the Sixth Special Session of the IOTC from February 3-5, a proposal calling for a 72-day ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) each year was approved through the use of secret ballot voting. The ban is expected to take effect between July 1 to September 11 in 2024.
The principal secretary for fisheries, Roy Clarisse, who was part of Seychelles’ delegation at the meeting outlined on Monday that Seychelles voted against the proposition.
“Seychelles was pushing for a measure on drifting FADs that is adopted after scientific recommendations have been made. We want the IOTC’s scientific commission, which has been tasked until December 31, to provide advice to the commission. We want the process to be carried out and followed and based on the recommendation of the scientific commission, Seychelles will make its decision,” said Clarisse.
He said the measure was a bit arbitrary and the target was purely for the commercial interest of other parties that do not use purse seiners and FAD fishery.
The proposal is “to ensure that in the end this type of fisheries is no longer economically viable for the region and this will have a huge impact on Seychelles,” said Clarisse.
Fisheries is the second most important industry for the economy of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
He warned that with a collapsed purse seining fisheries in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles will be in socio-economic difficulties as “there is a canning factory that employs a lot of workers, there are stevedores who work with these vessels as well as many other economic activities that revolve around purse seining activities.”
|Clarisse said there are many activities around tuna fishing. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Additionally, this will also have negative impacts on the cost of importation, and in turn the tourism industry, the top contributor to the Seychelles economy.
Talking about the method used to adopt the resolution, Clarisse said that Seychelles feels that the process undermines the aspect of cooperation and consensus that there needs to be within IOTC for the management of tuna.
“We felt that the intentions of countries that are against purse seiners or FADs were not necessary to have a discussion on the proposition. The intention was clearly to push for a vote as there were a lot of delaying tactics to get the commission to adjourn during the preceding of the meeting and as such there wasn’t much time to discuss the proposition,” he explained.
Concern was also expressed by the European Union in an article from The Guardian.
“We were looking forward to a constructive discussion. Unfortunately, the IOTC meeting did not allow for that. Instead, it adopted, without consensus, a measure that according to our assessment lacks scientific basis and that could prove impossible to implement, in addition to having extremely harsh impacts on fishers and local communities. We now need to consider our options. We are determined to make sure the IOTC becomes effective once again,” said an EU commission spokesperson.
Seychelles’ reliance on purse seiners
An independent fisheries expert from Seychelles, Ameer Ibrahim, told SNA on Tuesday that “the PS has well said that there will be negative consequences on the Seychelles’ economy if we adopt the resolution as it is now.”
“For the time being out economy depends primarily on tourism and fisheries. In my opinion, we need to realise that we are heavily reliant on foreign governments, for example, the EU that fish in our waters. It is about time that Seychelles takes ownership of its fishing industry,” he added.
Ibrahim said added that “fisheries is giving more to our economy than 10 years ago and we saw this when we were hit by COVID-19. There was no tourism but our economy was stable enough because we had fisheries. Something that Seychelles must do is evaluate exactly how much money we are getting through fisheries.”
He said that there are also other forms of fishing that Seychelles could look into.
“An example is fly fishing which is a big industry but we classify it as tourism while it is a form of fishery. There is also sports fishing. We need to look at those other forms of fishing that are more sustainable and at the same time generate more money for our economy. A clear example is to do a proper study and quantify exactly how much fishing is giving back to the economy. Then we look at other forms of fishing,” he added.
Federation of Artisanal Fishermen of the Indian Ocean condemns IOTC’s decision
Meanwhile, the Federation of Artisanal Fishermen of the Indian Ocean (FPAOI) has condemned in a press release the decision of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to ban purse seiners from using fish aggregating devices (FADs) for 72 days.
The president of the FPAOI, which brings together professionals from the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Reunion, Keith André of Seychelles, has denounced the ban as a sham.
He said the ban only concerns international waters and therefore leaves all the room in the world for these industrial vessels to sacrifice the future of fish stocks in the exclusive economic zones of their flag countries in the Indian Ocean.
“For the FPAOI, only a total ban on the use of drifting FADs by tuna seiners would be a courageous and effective measure for the preservation and recovery of stocks, particularly yellowfin tuna,” said Andre.