Seychelles and the European Council adopted the new EU-Seychelles Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement on Thursday and are expected to sign it next week, said the fisheries ministry.
The progress on the agreement will come as good news for workers in the sector, who say they have seen their workloads drop in recent weeks.
Both parties are expected to sign the agreement and its implementing protocol next week, for its provisional application after the ratification of Seychelles' National Assembly and the European Commission.
The longstanding cooperation agreement between Seychelles and the European Union enables EU vessels to fish in the waters under the jurisdiction of the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Once the agreement is signed EU's fishing vessels will be able to start fishing in the Seychelles' waters.
Corinne Paya, the press and information officer of the EU Delegation to Mauritius and Seychelles, told SNA that "following adoption, it is for the Council and the relevant authorities from the Seychelles to find a suitable date of signature."
The last protocol expired on January 17, which means that EU-flagged vessels have been unable to conduct their activities in Seychelles' waters since that date.
Some companies operating in Seychelles have expressed concerns on the fact that the agreement has not yet been signed.
The joint manager of the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), Miguel Herrera, said via email that the Seychelles Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) is among the most important fishing grounds for tropical tunas.
He said that the majority of the catches of tunas during the first quarter of the year have been traditionally taken inside the Seychelles EEZ.
"While tuna purse seiners are highly mobile and can move to other areas in search for tunas, it is very likely that catch rates in other areas are much lower, which will have a large impact on the fleet," said Herrera.
He said that "while we believe that the consequences of this closure have a large detrimental economic impact on our fishing companies, we are afraid that this drop in fishing activity might put further pressure on Seychelles, through reduced economic activity."
The managing director of Land Marine, Hugh Adam, said that despite the business not operating only with fishing vessels, a drop in business has been noticed.
"This is the peak period for the fisheries industry. We do not deal solely with fish but cargo as well, and we have noticed a drop. Any reduction in the number of vessels coming in will affect our business, our stevedore and their revenue," said Adam.
Land Marine Limited is a private company that provides stevedoring, shore handling and specialised transport services at the Seychelles' Port Victoria.
A stevedore who asked to remain anonymous told SNA that "there isn't much workload at the moment and I need to source elsewhere for jobs as my income is not the same. A lot of stevedores had to do the same."
He added that this situation should be a good time for the government to think about having its own tuna-fishing fleets, creating a fall-back plan should the EU pull out one day or an agreement is not settled upon.
Stevedores are people who work at the ports, wharves and on the ships who load and unload cargo.