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Fishing in Seychelles


The Seychelles archipelago has an extensive exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 1,340,000 sq km, rich in marine resources. The 91,000 inhabitants come from a melting pot of colours, cultures and races, from five continents. Every family has some connection with the marine life, and with traditional fishermen, whose role within the nation's fisheries is of the utmost importance. Seychelles produces 450,000 tonnes of fish per year, and nearly 4,000 people (about 15 per cent of the active population) are engaged in fishing and fishery-related activities. This makes it the country's most important economic activity, contributing one third of national GDP in 2011.


Hook-and-line fishing, which is selective of both species and size, is the oldest and most widely practised fishing technique amongst traditional fishermen in Seychelles. Three types of line fishing are practised: set bottom fishing, ball bottom fishing (in which the bait—mackerel or bonito—and part of the line are coiled into a ball with sand), and bottom fishing adrift. The main fish species caught are snappers (red snapper, humphead red snapper), jobfish, jacks, and multicoloured groupers.


Until the 1980s, small-scale coastal fishing was carried out mostly from wooden canoes made from almond trees, using traps, long-lines or purse-seines. The liners originally used wooden whalers (open canoes with sails) or small schooners, all made of timber from the takamaka tree, known to withstand rot. The most famous shipyards were those on the islands of Praslin and La Digue. For years, the fish was salted onboard. The practice began to change in 1967, with the arrival of ice on the island of Mahé, through the services of the Seybrew beer brewery, the first industrial entity to manufacture and sell ice.


Today, whalers and schooners, ranging from 6 to 16 metres long, are built from fibreglass, often assembled in Sri Lanka, and equipped with diesel engines of 40-45 hp. However, practically all shipyards have disappeared from Seychelles. The ones which did survived, such as the Souris shipyard in Victoria, are adequate for maintenance services, and would potentially expansible as many owners still prefer to refurbish boats locally rather than order new ones.


The typical fishing crew, exclusively male (with notable exceptions and the number of ladies is increasing), consists of a skipper and three to six crew members. They leave for the open seas for six to 12 days, up to the limits of the Seychelles continental shelf, between 20 to 100 miles (161 km) from Mahé. Some even go as far as the Amirantes islands, part of the Outlying Islands of Seychelles. Fishermen leave port early in the morning from Victoria, Anse Royale, Anse Boileau or Bel Ombre. Those from Praslin leave from Baie Sainte Anne, while those from La Digue depart from La Passe. They sail at six knots to reach the fishing grounds, which location is a tightly kept secret. As soon as the wind picks up, the sail is hoisted to save precious fuel. All vessels are equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and a very high frequency (VHF) radio, and some even have vessel monitoring system (VMS). They fish on the slope of the shelf or on shoals at a depth between 20 and 60 m. For bait they use skipjack tuna discarded by purse-seiners (as bycatch) or, more rarely, locally caught mackerel.


Artisanal fishing accounts for an annual production of just above 2,500 tonnes of fish caught within the shallow to deep coastal areas. In Seychelles, the fisheries hold both cultural and nutritional importance. As a of matter fact, fish is the primary source of protein, and ensures food security for the population. Hook-and-line fishing is selective of both species and size, and is the oldest and most widely practised fishing technique among artisanal fishers in the Seychelles. Three types of line fishing are practised: set bottom fishing, ball bottom fishing (in which the bait - mackerel or bonito - and part of the line are coiled into a ball with sand) and drift bottom fishing. The main species caught are emperors, red snappers, jack fish, jobfish and several groupers (representing 83 per cent of the traditional catch). Some Seychellois boats have also started practicing long-line fishing. This technique targeting pelagic fish specifically, allows fishermen to offload at Mahé some high quality tuna (big eye and yellow fin) and sword fish. The arrival of this new type of fishing is a boon for Seychellois, tourists and consumers. Locally it allows diversification of fishing effort which now offers a wider range of species and can also help to reduce the pressure on some highly valued fish stocks. In addition, the Seychelles long-lines help ensure the continuity of supply even in bad weather.

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