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Fisheries and Agriculture

Local fishermen offered possibility to harvest sea cucumber in Mascarene Plateau region |10 February 2023

Local fishermen offered possibility to harvest sea cucumber in Mascarene Plateau region

Mr Michaud (second from right) leading the press conference (Photo: Patrick Joubert)

Licensed fishermen engaged in harvesting sea cucumbers are being encouraged to apply for applications to harvest the species outside of Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone, now that the country and Mauritius will soon be undertaking sustainable exploratory harvesting of the echinoderms in the Mascarene Plateau region.

The two countries, which share joint jurisdiction of the area, reached an agreement for the exploratory harvesting of the species last year after two years of discussions.

The Joint Commission of the Extended Continental Shelf, for the joint management area, has since been sending out invitation proposals for eligible and qualified operators registered in Mauritius and Seychelles to undertake sustainable exploratory harvesting of sea cucumbers in designated parts of the Mascarene Plateau region for a period of one year which will take place under strict conditions.

For the moment there are 25 local licensed sea cucumber fishermen in the country and only six among them will be chosen to undertake the exploratory harvesting as per the agreement ‒ both countries will have to operate with six boats each. The exploratory fishing, which will be on a commercial basis, is expected to start either in March or in early April and the fishermen will be allowed to harvest a maximum of 5,000 sea cucumbers of different species, per vessel, per fishing trip.

In a press conference held yesterday morning at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) headquarters, Espace building, SFA’s interim chief executive, Philippe Michaud, said there is a potential of the resource in the area but they do not know of the extent.

“It is the reason why the exploratory harvesting of the species will be of vital importance for us, in terms of knowing its economic benefits and viability. It will also allow us to know where they are located,” said Mr Michaud.

Also present at the press conference were the authority’s legal advisor Yannick Roucou, the assistant manager license and permit Karlyss Auguste, the head of research department Rodney Govinden and the monitoring, control and surveillance manager Roddy Allisop.

Mr Michaud stated that according to information received, there are lots of other fishing activities taking place in the area and it is important for the joint commission to start to assert its rights in the area, to try and make the best use of the resources available.

It is to be noted that Seychelles and Mauritius have since 2011, only the sovereignty of the seabed and subsoil of the extended continental shelf measuring over 396,000 km2 and away from their respective EEZ for the purpose of jointly exploring and exploiting the living and non-living resources, including sea cucumber.

“The more we go there and the more we do research in that area, the more we will get an idea of what exist as resources,” Mr Michaud said.

He said vessels will not be allowed to call to each other’s port or to transfer their catch at sea other than to return to the port of embarkation.

He added that the fishermen will be authorised to harvest sea cucumber only and no other marine species.

He noted that apart from determining the stock, it will be the fishermen themselves who will sound the alarm if the fishing of sea cucumber in the area will be economically viable or not as it will be them who will bear all the costs.

With regard to the number of fishing trips to the area, Ms Auguste said that it will be limited to six trips, spanned over a one-year period, and the fishing vessels will also spend only 18 days on the fishing ground, on each trip.

She noted that the first three months will be devoted to the collection of data for research in terms of the scientific and economic sides of the exploratory harvesting.

Ms Auguste added that while the activity is an exploratory experiment, the vessels that will be chosen will not be charged any fees.

“All fishing activities, including the catch, will be monitored from both sides and the information will be shared for better management of the stock if found,”said Ms Auguste, who noted that monitoring systems already exist on both sides, to monitor at sea and at landing sites, including the sale of the species.

Ms Auguste stated that some local fishermen have shown interest and others who are seeking to send in their applications have until February 21, 2023 to do so at the department of the Blue Economy, Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy.


Patrick Joubert

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