Seychelles' Islands Development Company calls for greater regulation of recreational fisheries

Fisheries |Author: Juliette Dine Edited By: Betymie Bonnelame | May 6, 2024, Monday @ 10:13| 4270 views

Recreational fishing refers to any fishing activity undertaken by a vessel under 10 metres in length for recreational rather than commercial purposes, like trading or selling. (JOe Laurence)

The Islands Development Company (IDC), a state-owned company, is calling on local authorities to regulate recreational fishery urgently amid concerns being expressed by fishermen on stock depletion.

The IDC, which manages the outer islands of Seychelles and also the inner island of Silhouette, has over the years put guidelines in place for recreational fishing in the outer islands.  

According to Seychelles' Fisheries Act, recreational fishing refers to any fishing activity undertaken by a vessel under 10 metres in length for recreational rather than commercial purposes, like trading or selling.

Sport fishing is defined as any fishing activity undertaken for sport or recreation, which involves the hiring, chartering, or leasing of a vessel, and its annexes not exceeding 40 metres in length overall but which does not result in trading, offering for sale, or selling of fish.

The chief executive of the IDC, Glenny Savy, said the the company has established its standards on the islands.

"For example, on Alphonse, we only allow 12 fishermen at a time, on Farquhar it's 10, on Cosmoledo it's 8 and on Astove it's only 4. We don't allow more than that number of people to go and fish on those islands. In addition to that, the lagoons are divided into sectors and not every sector is fished everyday, as we rotate these sectors," he explained.

He said IDC realised the danger of unsustainable fishery in the 1980s when the reef of Silhouette, the only granitic inner island managed by IDC, was being heavily exploited for sea turtles, lobster and rabbit fish among others.

"We lobbied the government in the eighties to declare Silhouette a marine national park. This was done in 1987 and it is the largest marine park in Seychelles.  But although we managed to get the waters around Silhouette protected the authorities have never enforced it. At least our island manager and rangers of the Island Conservation Society (ICS) on Silhouette caution people that they cannot fish around the island because it is a marine park," Savy added.

IDC confirms that it is currently in discussion with a couple of associations on a possible code of conduct, but even if members of these associations abide by that code, the fact remains that many boat owners are not part of any association and will probably continue with business as usual.

He emphasised that the longer the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) takes to put regulations in place, the more time people who are not practising sustainable fishing have to destroy the fish sock.

Although there are no specific regulations governing recreational and sports fishing activities in Seychelles, certain restrictions have been put in place by the Fisheries (Mahe Plateau Trap and Line Fishery) Regulations 2021.

These restrictions include a minimum size limit of 32cm for two key species, namely emperor red snapper and green job fish. Additionally, there is a bag limit of 20 fish per person per day for recreational fishers, and a ban on the sale of fish caught by recreational and sport fishers, unless authorised by the SFA. 

There are no specific regulations governing recreational and sports fishing activities in Seychelles. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY

SFA is currently working towards introducing a regulatory framework by the end of 2024 to further define these fisheries.

SFA confirmed that currently there are no licensing schemes for recreational fishing but "the law prescribes that anything recreational and for sport shall have a permit system," said Karyss Auguste, SFA's assistant manager for the License and Permit System.

She said, "On the Mahe plateau, the law makes provision for fishermen to either have a commercial license or a recreational permit. Therefore, for someone to engage in any fishing activity, that person will have to be a registered fisherman with a commercial license or a holder of a recreational permit."

SFA acknowledges the difficulty in managing resources with open access such as the seas and they do not know who is fishing and the type or size of species that they fish, which makes it difficult to ensure sustainable fishing.

Vincent Lucas, SFA's head of department fisheries management and technical coordination, said this is a concern and the authority worries about the sustainability of fishery if such practices continue.

The idea of having regulation and a code of conduct is also supported by non-governmental organisations such as the Island Conservation Society (ICS).

Gregory Berke, the director of conservation and science at ICS, said a code of conduct is necessary.

"Some operators such as Blue Safari Seychelles already implement a code of conduct using guidelines from studies already undertaken in Seychelles and based on international best practices. It would be beneficial if there were a regulatory framework in place so that all recreational or sports fishing have a code of conduct in place," he said.

A Seychellois fisheries expert, Dr Ameer Ebrahim, told SNA that he feels there is not enough information to state what impact the recreational fishery is having on fish stock.

"We haven't taken into consideration the social aspect of the fishery for example would you penalise a father and child who goes fishing on the rock on a weekend, or would they need a license? In other parts of the world, they would need a license to carry out any form of recreational fishing whether it is for a hobby or not," said Ibrahim.

He said this needs to be documented and discussed on a larger scale before deciding on a fee.

Ebrahim also pointed out other aspects to consider such as foreign workers who work in Seychelles under a  the Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) and their involvement in this type of fishery.

" GOP workers are fishing during the weekend in various areas and they fish whatever they can catch. From my understanding under their GOP condition food is supposed to be supplied by their employee. If they are fishing for food external to their GOP condition this needs to be looked at because we have no control over the quantity of fish being removed and the way it being done, for me it seems quite significant. If they are fishing recreationally, as a hobby, there needs to be some sort of mechanism on how to regulate that," he added.

Tags: Islands Development Company, Island Conservation Society, Seychelles Fishing Authority


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