7 November 2017

Seychelles' Main Port Expects Drop in Activity As Vessels Hit Yellowfin Tuna Limit

Port activities are expected to be scaled back by the start of December, as purse seiners come closer to their yellowfin tuna fishing allowances, a local port authority official told SNA.

The 13 purse seiners operating under the Seychelles' flag have between 125 and 725 metric tonnes (MT) of yellowfin tuna left that they can catch this year. Vincent Lucas, an officer from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), estimated that "operations would go on for roughly another month out of the remaining two" left in 2017.

"That does not mean that all vessels will stop operation come December 1. Some vessels can still manage two trips with their 725 MT remaining quota," said Lucas.

He added that though operations will resume on January 1, it is only a month later that landing will take place. This will amount to another month of limited port activities.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) announced last year that yellowfin tuna was being over-exploited following a report of the scientific committee. To rebuild stock, the commission reduced the fishing allowance by 15 percent.

Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, started implementing these measures on June 1. The local fishing authority monitored the trend of fishery during the first half of the year. After that, each vessel was allocated with a 1088 MT fishing allowance.

All Seychelles' flagged vessels, except the Spanish, will spend approximately a month in port.

"The Spanish Administration has implemented a complete ban on yellowfin tuna, which became effective on November 5," said Miguel Herrera, the joint manager of the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC).

The Spanish organisation told SNA that the adoption of this closure, which will go until the end of the year, was based on the estimated time at which the total-allowance-catch of yellowfin tuna was to be reached.

"The closure [led to a complete closure of the fishing activities of Spanish purse seiners in the Indian Ocean and therefore there will be no catches until activities are resumed," said Herrera.

As purse seining is a multispecies fishery, the ban on catches of yellowfin tuna will be effectively extensible to other target species such as skipjack and bigeye tuna.

"Supply to the local canning factory in Seychelles will be discontinued until at least the third or fourth week of 2018. Most port services - fuel, water, salt, stevedores - will also be discontinued," added Herrera.

The fishing sector is the second main contributor to the island nation's economy, and the lack of activities could bring about "dire consequences to Seychelles livelihoods and the economy as a whole."

Lucas said that in future, each vessel will know their exact quota before January 1.

"This will allow them to better manage it so that it lasts the entire year. Furthermore, we are proposing a reduction in days at sea, whereby after each trip the vessel remains in port for two to three days more, which will allow the quota to last longer," said Lucas.

This suggestion was made at the beginning of the year by OPAGAC, which they said could have helped reduce the number of days at sea and as a proxy to reducing catches of yellowfin tuna.

During the time that the vessels will be at port, the foreign purse seiners can undertake their yearly maintenance in other ports in the region.

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