As customary since the first expedition in October 2022, students from Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) are also taking part in the clean-up and recovery exercise and six of them – four boys and two girls – including a lecturer, a representative of the Island Conservation Society Seychelles (ICS), a scientist and an observer from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), have joined the military crew of Saya de Malha.
The 20-member team and personal onboard will physically remove dFADs and debris washed up on reefs, lagoons and the shore beaches of the outer islands.
The four-week expedition,which will also include the collection of data for danger analysis, will focus on the Seychelles’ southern atolls, including Providence, Cerf, Cosmoledo and Aldabra. The team is expected to return on December 11, 2023.
Present to see off the students and other team members were Designated Minister Jean-François Ferrari, who is also responsible for fisheries and the blue economy; SFA’s chief executive, Dr Jan Robinson; representatives from SCG, SFA and the blue economy, and fishing industry partners.
Previous successful missions of Saya De Malha to recover stranded dFADs were financed through the Environmental Trust Fund provided for by the Seychelles-EU Fisheries Partnership Agreement. This latest expedition will benefit from increased financial engagement by industry partners, through the FAD Watch initiative.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the latter was signed in August 2023, which consolidated the partnership involving SFA, the Sustainable Indian Ocean Tuna Initiative (SIOTI), and the Spanish Association of Tuna Freezers (AGAC). The MoU provides for a two-year engagement to support the Seychelles’ efforts in both intercepting dFADs that run the risk of becoming stranded in shallow marine habitats and recovering dFADs that are stranded.
“The new FAD Watch Initiative, supported by our industry partners, marks an important milestone in our efforts to recover dFADs that may have been stranded on outer islands. Through increased financial engagement, we aim to make this campaign even more effective in safeguarding our marine habitats,” said Designated Minister Ferrari, who thanked the European Union for its contribution towards the environmental management of Seychelles’ waters.
“The Spanish and French shipowners who are members of SIOTI and AGAC are taking significant steps towards sustainability by introducing biodegradable FADs into their operations, which will further contribute to reducing the environmental impact and ensuring a healthier ecosystem for our marine life,” added Mr Ferrari.
The experience being offered to the youths foster their passion for marine conservation and helps build the next generation of maritime professionals. Hence, in this year’s expedition the students will be using more advanced technology. The designated minister called on them to learn the maximum that would eventually help them choose a career in maritime.
Before the departure, CEO Robinson presented the students with several equipment including hand gloves, boots, ropes, UV water proof vests, sun screens and knives to untangle dFADs. The equipment was sponsored by the fishing donor partners.
“Building on the success of previous dFAD recovery campaigns by Saya De Malha, our partners have committed to making this first campaign under the new FAD Watch initiative even more effective through the use of a new FAD-tracking software called Ocean Track. Fishing vessel owners supply SFA with online software and satellite tracking data for dFADs that enter coastal zones around 15 of the Seychelles’ islands, which are then classified by the software as at drift or stranded,” Dr Robinson explained.
He stated that once collected the FADs will be stocked in a warehouse belonging to SFA and they will be put at the disposal of people working in the circular economy for waste management.
FADs are free-floating platforms equipped with a GPS to attract large concentrations of fish. They are widely used in and around Seychelles waters by tuna purse seiners and other tuna fishing vessels. Given the many non-biodegradable materials attached to the raft, if abandoned or lost, they contribute to marine pollution.
In the 10 days of the first expedition in October 2022, a total of 22 dFADs were collected while in the second expedition in March-April 2023, which lasted for 20 days, 114 dFADs were collected.
The accompanying photos show some highlights of the send-off ceremony.