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Minister’s Message – World Fisheries Day

Every year on the 21st of November, nations worldwide celebrate World Fisheries Day. As the Minister responsible for fisheries, this celebration is one of extreme importance to me. On this day, not only do I reflect on the successes of the fisheries sector in Seychelles and how far we have come, but I also ponder over all the challenges we face and how we can best mitigate them.

World Fisheries Day reminds everyone how crucial it is to sustainably manage our fisheries sector and it allows us to appreciate all that our ocean provides us with on a daily basis. This year, World Fisheries Day is even more special as the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA). The objective of celebrating IYAFA 2022 is twofold: the Year aims to focus world attention on the role that small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers play in food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource use and increasing global understanding and action to support them.

As stated by the Fisheries Transparency Initiative, ‘Marine fisheries have become a critical resource fulfilling the economic, food security, and nutrition needs of millions of people around the world.’ In the past, as communities grew and emerged, many depended on the abundance of resources found in our oceans, yet nobody realised that as those communities grew, so did their dependence on the fish stock. To make the most of the fisheries sector and to keep enjoying its benefits, we need to think innovatively, collaborate and make maintainable plans for the future. The promotion of artisanal fisheries is one of the best ways to support the sustainable management of this rich natural resource. Furthermore, it also brings us closer to traditions. Fish plays a vital role in the nutrition of the people. The per capita consumption of fish in Seychelles is one of the highest in the world, variably reported to be between 48 and 65 kg per annum, with the artisanal fisheries contributing significantly to the protein requirements of the country.

The future development of the Seychelles fisheries sector is tightly linked to diversification, economic resilience and sustainability. As a result of the limited scope for growth in catch or production, the Government has emphasised the continued expansion of fisheries through enhanced value addition, encouragement of a circular economy, and the development of aquaculture. The potential for valued growth is linked to increased services, maximising of landed catch, increased capture of the tuna being transhipped in Port Victoria, improved quality and marketing of demersal fish and tuna from small-scale fishing vessels, and high-value, niche products from the aquaculture sector.

It must be noted that I am proud that Seychelles is pushing forth the aquaculture initiative. This venture is anticipated to enhance the quality of fish and fish products as well as amplify export opportunities. Aquaculture will ensure that the communities in Seychelles keep having a healthy, balanced diet for years to come and of course, this endeavour will help maintain the sense of balance in our environment and biodiversity for future generations’ use. On this day, we need to also acknowledge and address some of the challenges the fisheries sector is facing. There are in fact a number of issues that need the attention, energy and commitment of not just one person or entity, but the nation as a whole. Overfishing, overharvesting, climate change and global warming are only a few issues the sector faces. One major challenge is IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing. This remains, and still is a major threat to this thriving industry. The culprits have no regards to our laws, our way of life nor do they take into consideration that the fisheries sector is one of our main economic contributor. To address these challenges, we must modernise and transform our laws & policies and strengthen our relationship with the relevant national and international authorities. Partnership, whether it is at a local or international level is key to ensure the continuity of our fisheries sector.

Managing our fish resources is no easy task. It requires cooperation and engagement at all levels of government, from local communities to nations across the globe. Maintaining the contribution made by fisheries and aquaculture to food security, employment, national economic development, and recreation is not an easy task and it requires everyone’s effort. It goes without saying that we must stand together to restore the health of our ocean and protect sensitive species and habitats, but, we must also transform the way we interact with our ocean. Reforming fisheries management is perhaps the most impactful approach at our disposal. Moving forward, as a country, we must consider utilising science and technology to work towards preserving the stability of our fisheries sector. Applying new technologies and best available science to our fisheries sector could revolutionize how we manage our seafood supply and ensure a healthy ocean in return.

Moreover, it goes without saying good governance and fisheries management must go hand in hand. Good governance is fundamental to ensuring the equitable and sustainable management of global fisheries and to facilitate policy change.

To reverse alarming trends, Seychelles will keep on supporting a number of internationally initiated instruments and arrangements has been in effect to properly manage fisheries and aquatic environment in the last decade. These include the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Agenda 21 of UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, the 1995 UN Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, amongst others.

As the Minister, I will ensure that the right political and social will is on the side of the fisheries sector for the benefit of all Seychellois people. We will keep working to strengthen fisheries management through improved data collection and scientific assessment so that decisions concerning management and development options could be more rationally based and informed.

Happy World Fisheries Day!