IOTC imposes penalty for Seychelles’ yellowfin tuna fishing, formal complaint lodged
Seychelles’ overall quota for yellowfin tuna catch for 2022 has been reduced by 9,184 tonnes by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) as a payback provision for over-catch in 2020 by industrial longline fleets.
Under IOTC Resolution 21/01, Seychelles qualified for a total yellowfin tuna allocation of 39,542 tonnes for 2022, covering catch from all fleets registered in the island state — purse seiners, industrial longliners and semi-industrial longliners.
The principal secretary for fisheries, Roy Clarisse, told SNA that Seychelles lodged a formal objection to the IOTC chairperson on January 5.
He said that while the payback penalty is based on confirmed data submitted by the island state to the IOTC Secretariat, “it is also based on estimates made by the IOTC Secretariat for 2021, whereby it is assumed that this fleet segment has over-caught the same amount as they did in 2020.”
This is because final catch data for industrial longline vessels are not reported to the commission until December 30 the following year.
Clarisse said that if the situation is not rectified it will affect the fishing opportunities of all of Seychelles’ fleets.
“Besides a big revenue loss to the country, it may also impact the livelihood of several Seychellois who are directly or indirectly dependent on the tuna fishing industry such as Seychellois owners of the semi-industrial vessels, their crew, the local set-industrial fish processors and their employees, stevedores, just to name a few,” said Clarisse.
He said that the government will work to ensure that the catch of the Seychellois semi-industrial longliners will be protected and in no way reduced.
“These boats are 100 percent Seychellois-owned and any reduction can have serious consequences and as such we will ensure that this fleet is in no way affected,” said Clarisse.
According to an IOTC circular published on December 31, 2021, if a given fleet over-caught fish in 2020, it has to pay back 200 percent of that amount they over-caught — 100 percent for 2021 and 100 percent for 2022.
Clarisse added that SFA’s interpretation of the IOTC provisions is that the paying back of over-catch is undertaken “by allowing that country/fleet to be able to split the payback over a period of two years, rather than as a double penalty as implemented through the IOTC circular.”
He said that Seychelles is doing its utmost to submit 2021 data before the due date so that the reduced tonnage for the year can be reinstated into the 2022 catch limit allocation.
While purse seiners and semi-industrial fleets are very dependent on yellowfin tuna in view of the nature of their fishery, the industrial longline fleet is more flexible as it can adjust fishing methods and target other species such as big-eye tuna and swordfish, he explained.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has three fleets that are comprised of 13 purse seiners, which are mainly Spanish and French-owned vessels, as well as 61 industrial longliners and 39 semi-industrial longliners vessels targeting yellowfin tuna.
Yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean is currently the most overfished tuna stock in the world.