The re-opening of octopus fishery was held yesterday at the Mahebourg Fish Landing station after a two-month ban from 15 August to 15 October, in the presence of the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, fisheries and Shipping, Mr Premdut Koonjoo.
In his address, Mr Koonjoo highlighted that the recent closure is being implemented at national level for the third year in a row. He rejoiced that there has already been an increase in octopus catch for the past three years. The catch has increased from 25 tons to 39 tons from 2015 to 2017, he added.
The Minister pointed out that in 2017, the average octopus weight before closing was 312 g adding that at the reopening of octopus fishery, the average weight was 1124 g. Last year the total catch recorded in one day was 508 kg of octopus, with the largest catch, a 13 kg octopus in the area of Bambous Virieux, he said.
Speaking about the measure, Mr Koonjoo underlined that it aims to increase the number of juveniles which will grow into adults, thus increasing the population of octopus. He added that the two-months' closure aims to promote the sustainable management of the fishery resources. It also allows the female population to reproduce and at the re-opening of the fishing season, the fishermen will have a better catch, with octopus weighing around 1 to 1,5 kg. This initiative will also have a huge impact in preserving the nature and propagation of the species, he said.
This year, the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping participated in awareness campaigns together with the officers of the Fisheries Protection Services to sensitise fishers on the octopus closure, namely at Bambous Virieux, Grand Gaube, Tamarin, Le Morne, Mahebourg and Riambel.
The fisherman with the biggest catch of octopus will be rewarded with a cash prize of Rs 10 000, the second Rs 5 000 and the third Rs 3 000.
Seasonal closure of the octopus fishery
Following the positive results obtained in Rodrigues, where a two-month island-wide seasonal closure of the octopus fishery is being observed every year since 2012, a pilot project with a two-months' voluntary closure of the octopus fishery was implemented in 2015 in the south-west region of Mauritius, along the coastal strip extending from Le Morne to Souillac. This activity was implemented in Mauritius as according to statistics the catch of octopus from the lagoon of Mauritius had also decreased considerably for the past years, from 300 tonnes in 1990 to less than 50 tonnes in 2015.
In this regards, a voluntary and experimental closure trial on the fishing of Octopus was carried out in the region of Souillac to Le Morne in the south of Mauritius from 10 August to 10 October 2015, with the collaboration of different stakeholders like Fishermen in the region, the District /village Councils, Fisheries Protection Services, National Coast Guard and NGO such as Mauritius Marine Conservation Society, Eco-Sud, Eco-mode and Reef Conservation.
The results of the catch and size of the octopus obtained after the closure was encouraging. Consequently, the Ministry implemented a closure on the fishing of octopus on a National level from 15 August to 15 October 2016, with the collaboration of the IOC-Smart Fish/ UNDP-GEF programme. Regulations were proclaimed under the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act and Offenders were liable to a fine of up to Rs 50 000/-
Since then, the Ministry is implementing the closure every year under the same Regulations.