Tourism and fishing are the two most important industries for the economy of Seychelles. In 2009, tourism was surpassed by industrial fishing as the highest foreign exchange earner. Tuna fishing is the highest earner. Licencing fees are also growing that are paid by foreign companies that trawl in Seychelles’ territorial water.
Seychelles is a Small Island Development State (SIDS) and does not have land resources. It is also vulnerable to climate changes. It depends on tourism and fishing, both of which need to be protected. Because Seychelles has to import about 90 per cent of what it consumes, it has a trade deficit and foreign currency deficit.
Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA)
Fisheries are under the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Transport. The Seychelles Fishing Authority is the executive body that is responsible for fisheries. The Fishing Boat Owner’s Association (FBOA) is the other important stakeholder in fisheries.
The Seychelles Fishing Authority was created in 1984 to develop the fishing industry in Seychelles to its fullest potential as well as preserve the resource base for sustainable development. Their aim is to promote sustainable fisheries with the optimization of the benefits from the fishing sector for today and the future.
The SFA promotes, organises and develops the fishing industries and fishing resources. It also helps formulate national policy pertaining to the fishing industries and resources as well as the implementation of that policy.
The SFA conducts seminars, meetings and negotiations at the national and international level with regard to the establishment or operation of fishing industries, fisheries or fishing for the government of Seychelles. It also identifies the manpower training required by the country for the fishing industry. Their objectives are:
• Management and conservation of marine resources
• Generation of employment
• Maximum revenue generation
• Integrated economy for Seychelles
• Guarantee of food supply
• Policies for safety at sea
The SAF continues making policies and planning, doing fisheries research and management, extending and developing more fisheries, monitoring the safety and sustainable production of the fisheries and facilitating training of employees. Another important policy is to maintain Port Victoria on Mahe Island as the major tuna landing and transhipment port in the West Indian Ocean.
The Fisheries Sector
Fisheries were 7.7 per cent of the Seychelles GDP in 2008 which brought in 97 per cent of the export earnings. The tuna fishery that is exploited by European Vessels mainly brought 261,000 tonnes in 2009. The fishing sector employs 17 per cent of the total employed population. It has a main role for food security, foreign exchange earnings and income generation.
There are three main components of the fishing sector in Seychelles:
• Artisanal fisheries that target fish on the sea floor and semi-pelagic species with small, motorised boats
• Semi-industrial fisheries that are locally-owned, small long-liners that target pelagic species mainly swordfish and tuna
• Industrial fisheries that mainly target tuna are large long-liners and purse seiners that are operated by foreign-owned companies. Purse seining is a type of dragnet that closes at the bottom like purse strings so the fish cannot escape.
Mariculture is a specialized branch that cultivates marine organisms in the open ocean for food or other objectives. The SFA has two mariculture projects just outside Mahe.
There is also a small trap fishery that accounts for 15 per cent of the total fish landings. This targets fish near reef and shallow banks and is seasonal when bad weather forces the fishermen to operate inshore. Other small fisheries are lobster and sea cucumber. This is done by divers and is very limited.
There is a shared quota system for sea-cucumber for the four major species.
There are two fish processing plants that produce for export as well as the local market. There is a large canning factory that processes about 350 tonne of tuna every day. This is mostly for the export market.
Industrial fishery is operated by vessels that are licensed and foreign-owned. A few are Seychelles-registered vessels. There are two main categories of fisheries. One is purse seine fishery that is mainly Spanish and French under EU agreement. These target surface-swimming tuna. The other is Taiwanese and Japanese that targets deep-swimming tuna.
Purse seiner fishing has had a stable catch for the past 10 years. This includes 300,000 tonne of tuna in the south-west Indian Ocean with about 15 per cent in the Seychelles EEZ. About 85 per cent of this tuna is transhipped in Port Victoria.
Because of the limited amount of fresh water sources in the Seychelles, inland fisheries are insignificant.
Recreational fisheries are active most often at weekends and in the evening. These fishers use hand lines and target demersal species such as snappers, lethrinids and groupers as well as semi-demersal species such as sphyraenids only at night and carangids.
Aquaculture in Seychelles needs to be marine-based because of the limited fresh water resources. There are three main activities located outside Mahe. These are the Coetivy Prawn Farm and the Giant Clam Farm and Pearl Oyster Farm located on Praslin.
The Prawn Farm is on Coetivy Island about 300 kilometres from Mahe. They raise the giant black tiger prawn and export more than 835 tonne of frozen prawn.
The Giant Clam Farm is under the same management as the Pearl Farm. The clams are raised on land near the Praslin airport.
Rules for Protection and Sustainability
• The lobster fishery has closed seasons from the beginning of February to the end of October. Also, the carapaces must be a certain length for each species and capturing berried females is prohibited.
• Mackerel gillnet fishery is restricted to day time fishing. No fishing from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
• Fishing with nets is prohibited in certain areas of the reefs on all three main granitic islands
• Fishing activity is prohibited in the Marine Parks around the granitic islands
• Fish traps must have a minimum mesh size of 40 millimetres diameter
• There are restricted zones for foreign fishing vessels that prohibit fishing within three kilometres from the 200 metre isobaths
Other Established Controls
• There is a cap of 50 licences granted to foreign purse seiners
• Sharks may not be caught with nets and all vessels with an LOA>24 must not remove the fins from the sharks
• Spear guns and demersal trawling are prohibited in Seychelles waters
• It is prohibited to export live fish
• Mother ship ventures with dories are prohibited on the Amirantes and Mahe plateaus which make these ventures unprofitable
• There is a cap of 25 licences for lobster and sea-cucumber fishery
Incentives for Local Fishers
• Interest-free loans for the purchase of new fishing boats and engines
• A voucher scheme for cheaper fuel
• Concessions for local fishers who target tuna and swordfish including trade tax and duty-free fuel
• Rebates and duty exemptions for fuel, imports of bait, equipment and fishing material
• Business tax exemptions
Fish Markets and Utilization
Most fish is consumed fresh, but some high quality species are sold to the export and fish processing companies for hotels or export on ice to Europe. Mahe has six ice plants that produce 35 to 40 tonne per day and one on Praslin that produces three tonne per day. Ice shortage is a constant problem.
There is some smoking of sailfish and marlin for the hotel market, and some fishers who take long trips salt fish for later sale on Mahe. Some fishes catch shark and remove their fins for sale to the Far East for a huge profit.
The majority of the tuna caught in purse seine is sent in refrigerated vessels to Europe, Thailand, Puerto Rico and Mauritius.
In general, 92 per cent of Seychelles domestic exports of fish go to France, Japan, Germany, Mauritius, Reunion and the United Kingdom.
Issues within the Fishing Industry
• The high capital investment and operating costs compared to the low return on investment.
• An unreliable labour force because most young people do not want to go into the fishing sector. Seamen are required to work in the industrial tuna fleet
• Lack of fishing supplies including seasonal bait
Seychelles receives aid from the European Union and Japan. Some of this is allocated for scientific research in fisheries development. Funds have also been provided for semi-industrial long-liners for the monofilament tuna fishery, and Japan has given grants for six aid projects to build ice plants, fishing port infrastructure and fishing quays as well as to provide research vessels and equipment. This includes repairs for the damages from the 2004 tsunami disaster.
Seychelles is just south of Somalia and its fishing boats are susceptible to piracy. The number of fishing boats that entered Port Victoria, Mahe dropped to 60 per year during the peak piracy threat. It usually had 60 ships per month including Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese and Spanish.
Recently, the Seychelles fishing industry is beginning to recover because of international anti-piracy efforts and boats carrying armed guard that deter attacks by Somali pirates.