A total of 51 fishermen received their Fishermen Cards and six were handed over cheques as grant under the Canotte Scheme during a ceremony held on Friday 25 May 2018 at the Mauritius Maritime Training Academy in Pointe aux Sables. The Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Premdut Koonjoo, and the Minister of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment, Mr Alain Wong, were present.
In his address, Minister Koonjoo underlined that the fishermen community is among one of the most important stakeholders of the Ministry and added that fishers have always been at the center of development of the fisheries sector. He pointed out that in line with Government's vision to make the ocean economy an important economic pillar to create employment, wealth generation and food security, the Ministry has assisted fishermen by providing them a series of incentives and capacity building with a view to contributing to the development of the Ocean Economy.
However, he said, in recent years, issues such as over-exploitation of the lagoon, pollution, climate change and coral bleaching events have led to the decrease in catch in the lagoon by some 50% in 2013 compared to 2005. As a result, fishermen are increasingly facing difficulties to secure a decent living, he pointed out.
He stressed that the Ministry has not remained insensitive to the problems faced by the fishermen and has reviewed its policy to empower the fishermen community. Consequently, in Budget 2014/2015, provision was made for the implementation of a special scheme with a view to providing financial support to the fisherman community to enable them to purchase better equipped fishing boats namely "Canottes" to be used as a tool to enhance their livelihood and to encourage fishermen to fish in the off-lagoon, he added.
Speaking about the Canotte Scheme, he recalled that a total of Rs 10 million is available in Budget 2017/18 for the implementation of Phase III and IV of the scheme. Funds have also been committed under the Fisheries Sector Programme of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the EU to continue the Canotte Scheme in 2018/19, he said.
Referring to the Fishermen Card, Minister Koonjoo pointed out that from 2009 to 2018, 635 applications for Fishermen Cards have been received at the Ministry while adding that from 2017 to May 2018, a General Course for Fisher was run for three batches of a shortlist from the 635 applicants. The 51 selected fishermen, he said, will have to undergo a monitoring assessment for 6 months, carried out by the Fisheries Protection Officers. He informed the fishermen community that the Ministry will not tolerate any breach of the Fisheries Act.
For his part, the Minister of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment, Mr Alain Wong, laid emphasis on safety and security at sea and appealed to fishermen to comply with all safety measures. He stated that the job of a fisherman is a noble one since one puts one's life at risk at sea to provide for one's family. He added that it is therefore very important that Government gives them incentives so that they can work in the best possible conditions. The fisheries sector, he recalled, is contributing significantly to the Mauritian economy.
Canotte Scheme and Fishermen Cards
This scheme was introduced in Budget 2014/2015 to support fishermen financially so that they can equip themselves with better fishing boats. Through this scheme, a registered fisherman is eligible to a grant representing 50% of the cost of a "Canotte" and engine up to a maximum amount of Rs 200,000 per "Canotte". The fisherman may provide his own contribution to finance the other 50% of the project or contract a loan from the DBM. As at date, 38 registered fishermen have benefitted from the scheme.
As regards Fishermen Cards, the last issue dates back to 2009. A first screening exercise for new Fishermen Cards application started in 2015 by the Fisheries Protection Service. The fishermen community comprises 1881 fishermen, out of which 39 are females.