Successful first FADs retrieving mission paves the way for second |28 January 2023
The first ten-day expedition to clean up Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) washed up in reefs, lagoons and on the shores of Seychelles’ islands was officially launched from October 18 to 28 last year, and was by the end of the mission deemed a success.
The issue of roving FADs is one of concern to numerous stakeholders, and it is estimated that around 10,000 FADs are deployed annually in the Indian Ocean, mainly by tuna purse seiners and fishing vessels, to attract large concentrations of fish.
FADs are free-floating platforms equipped with GPS, and are usually constructed of non-biodegradable materials including nets, ropes and fishing buoys which contribute towards marine pollution. These devices can either be abandoned, break away, get lost, or drift, ending up submerged and on beaches.
The first mission concentrated on the southern islands, which are most affected as noted by Minister for Fisheries and the Blue Economy, Jean François Ferrari, at the launch. The mission was carried out in the Amirantes islands where a total of 21 FADs washed ashore were recovered from the islands, including St Joseph, Poivre, Etoile, Boudeuse, Marie Louise, Desnoeufs and Desroches.
A crew of the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG) were joined by two students of the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) onboard Saya de Malha, a 41-metre supply vessel boasting a 5-metre draft and a capacity to hold 300 tonnes of fuel.
The first expedition cost just over R1 million, and was partly funded through a dedicated fund whereby European Union (EU) ship-owners contribute annually for the purpose of environmental management and observation of the marine ecosystem in the Seychelles waters. The rate of annual contribution is Euro (€) 2.25 per gross tonnage (GT) of each purse seine vessel licensed under the Agreement. Furthermore, as of last year, the same principle was applied to the Seychelles flagged purse seiners and those under the Mauritius Agreement.
Under the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) with the EUwhich permits their vessels to fish in Seychelles waters, there is a chapter on ‘Conservation Technical Measures’.
One of the provisions of this chapter obligates EU fishing vessels to reduce the entanglement of sharks, turtles, or other non-targeted species by using non-entangled designs and materials in the construction of FADs.
In addition, to reduce the impact of FADs on the ecosystem and the amount of synthetic marine debris, EU vessels are to use natural or biodegradable materials for FADs and retrieve them in the Seychelles waters when they become non-operational.
Following the presentation of the mission report of the mission to Minister Ferrari and other high-ranking officials of the ministry earlier this week, the minister commended the initiative as a “fantastic example of how local stakeholders can collaborate, and the country benefit from such a partnership agreement”.
He thanked the SCG for its participation, and expressed his wish for more students and lecturers from SMA to benefit from future missions.
Speaking to Seychelles NATION, Lieutenant Kurl Elisabeth of the SCG, who partook in such an exercise for the first time, deemed it a valuable experience, with much opportunities for expanding officers' knowledge about the islands.
“Being the first time out there, the trip was a good experience, allowing us to recognise how many of these FADS are washed up on our beaches, the reefs and lagoons,” he stated.
For his part, Captain Francis Roucou, who also joined the SCG on the mission, noted that the mission was somewhat challenging considering the changing tides, and having to plan the expedition on each island around such.
The second mission has been scheduled for March 13, 2023.
As with the first mission, the second one will also see the involvement of SMA students.
Head of the Fisheries Programme at the SMA, Michael Barbe, is also in favour of having students be part of such a mission, especially considering that environmental conservation is a key component to the different study programmes on offer at the academy.
"We focus a lot on preservation of the environment and this is an opportunity for the students to see first-hand that while FADs can be beneficial, if not well managed or discarded they can impact on our natural environment" Mr Barbe stated.
He added that the students can acquire much knowledge and skills about FAD maintenance and management, to be passed on to their peers who miss out on the opportunity to be part of the mission.
"I have always advocated that the maritime domain concerns all of us. Fisheries being the second pillar of our economy all stakeholders must work together," he said.
"I am extremely happy that these youths have been given such an opportunity," Mr Barbe added.