26 April 2019

Seychelles: New European Subsidies for EU Fishing Fleet Could Devastate Seychelles' Tuna Stocks

In a decision being called "devastating" for Seychelles, a new European Parliamentary decision could upgrade Europe's fishing fleet, threatening the island nation's fisheries sector, experts said.

According to the Undercurrent News Service, "The European Parliament, in a plenary vote on April 4, has affirmed a proposal to re-introduce fishing subsidies in the post-2020 fund in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund."

"The decision has been opposed by numerous environmental groups, as the vote ensures public financial support for the purchase of new fishing vessels and the modernization of older ones, increasing the EU fleet's capacity to fish which, in some waters, is already much larger than sustainable fishing would allow," added the news service.

Nirmal Shah, who heads the non-profit Nature Seychelles and is the chairperson of the Seychelles Fisheries Authority - said the decision spells trouble for small island states where the EU's fleet capacity is already much larger than sustainable fishing would allow.

On his environment in Seychelles website, Shah said that coastal nations of the Indian Ocean should be very worried.

"For us in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) where 40 percent of the EU catch of tuna comes from, this may mean the end of our tuna stocks. Currently, the EU strategy at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in terms of tuna allocations, if successful, will be devastating to WIO coastal nations particularly Seychelles," said Shah.

He added that "the new subsidies will help build newer, larger and more efficient fishing vessels that will now come to our waters and harvest our fish even faster than in previous years."

Keith Andre, the chairperson of the Federation for Artisanal Fishermen in the Indian Ocean, told SNA that he finds the decision shocking and that it leaves so many uncertainties for Seychelles and neighbouring islands.

"The authorities have done everything to remove fishing subsidies locally but now the pressure is coming from abroad. They are not reintroducing subsidies to fish in their own waters but in ours. The EU is more committed to food security in their own region and we are penalising our industry just because we want to be part of the international community," said Andre.

Andre believes that the Seychelles' government should react quickly or take a stance on the subject.

Shah concluded in saying that "with this latest move the EU Parliament has sent exactly the wrong message to the rest of the world: we don't care what you do to protect your marine resources because we are giving billions of Euros to Europeans so it's easier for them to come and take what's left of your fish. What are we in Seychelles going to do?

Seychelles and the EU have a Fisheries Protocol under which the EU provides a total financial contribution of 30 million euros including access fees for its fishing vessels operating in the Seychelles waters.

The two parties also have a sustainable fisheries partnership agreement which is a longstanding cooperation agreement between Seychelles and the EU enabling EU vessels to fish in the waters under the jurisdiction of Seychelles.

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