(Seychelles News Agency) - An area around the main harbour of Seychelles’ Praslin island, the nation's second-most populated island, has been demarcated as a voluntary fisheries closure zone in a bid to help maintain the fish stock.
The project, an initiative of the Praslin Fishing Association, aims to conserve part of the Baie St Anne by limiting fishing activities from taking place in that area for a period of time. The government has welcomed the voluntary project.
Three yellow buoys labelled ‘Fisheries Closure’ are indicators of the closure zones, which went into operation on November 1. All vessels are requested to keep a safe distance and to navigate with extreme precaution when approaching the demarcated areas.
The initiative aims to help maintain the fish stock in that area and give ample time for the stock to grow. The closure will remain in force until April 30, 2020.
"We as fishermen have noticed that the size of fish is decreasing and so is the amount. We have taken examples of similar projects that have been carried out in other places and have had interesting results,” said Darrel Green, the chairperson of the Praslin Fishers Association.
He said that they were inspired by a similar project carried out in Rodrigues, an autonomous island of Mauritius, where a fisheries closure has been placed on octopus.
Fishermen on Rodrigues noticed that over time, there was a significant reduction in their catch because of unsustainable fishing practices and the effect of climate change on the reefs. The community started a voluntary closure of the octopus’ fishery for two months of the year. As a result, there has been an increase in the catch during the past four years.
Green said that the voluntary closure being carried out on Praslin “is not a project through which you will see the result in six months.”
He added that the association wants the closure to be something annual.
The project is mainly targeting artisanal fishermen who make a living off species living on the reef. During the months the bay will be closed, these fishermen will have to fish elsewhere.
“This is the initiative of a group of people and I think that fishermen in the Baie St Anne area need to realise that this is an idea coming from the community and everyone needs to accept and respect the initiative,” said Green.
Another aspect of the project is to serve as an educational model for the fishermen community on Praslin.
“We don’t need the government to always come and tell us to protect our own resources. As fisherman we need to put our heads together to realise this project and conserve what we have for the future generation,” said Green.
Fisheries is the second top contributor to the Seychelles economy.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has welcomed the project. The principal secretary of the fisheries department, Jude Talma, said in a previous interview that this is a good initiative.
“For many years now, we have been talking about sustainable fishing and it is finally getting through to the fishermen. This sector really depends on them and the action they take. I would like to congratulate them for taking this step,” said Talma.
Over the years, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has put a lot of emphasis on sustainable fishing. One of the initiatives is a marine spatial planning exercise to expand protected areas and a fisheries management plan for the Mahe Plateau to progressively move from an open-access fishery to a more controlled fishery.