Tuna fishing in Seychelles: OPAGAC concerned about catch limits and high operating costs
Yellowfin tuna catch limits and high operating costs are not a good recipe for the future, said a senior official of the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC).
The statement was made by the deputy manager of OPAGAC, Miguel Herrera, in an interview with SNA, who added that there is a possibility of the situation worsening should the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) decide to take more restrictive measures.
Yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean is currently the most overfished tuna stock in the world. In 2016, the IOTC adopted a resolution reducing the fishing allowance of the species by 15 percent to help rebuild the population.
The OPAGAC-AGAC group represents the interests of Spanish six seiners out of the 13 seiners registered in Seychelles.
“While we are happy that the height of the COVID-19 crisis is over, we must report that the future does not look bright,” he added.
The group expected operating costs to reduce in 2022, but this was not the case, due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
“This war has disrupted the global economy leading to high inflation, which has translated into very high operating costs for purse seiners. Unfortunately, the prices of tuna for canning have not increased accordingly, leading to lean, if any, economic benefits in 2022,” Herrera explained.
“It is clear for us that in times like this it is crucial that, more than ever, decision-makers take into consideration both socio-economic impacts and scientific advice when adopting measures, in order to not further undermine the situation of the fleets and the economies of the coastal states that depend on their activity,” he continued.
The interim chief executive of the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Phillipe Michaud, told SNA that the industry is currently going through a rough stage.
“We expect that together we will be able to find solutions taking into account that there are situations that are beyond our control. The war in Ukraine, for example, is beyond our control and it has created difficulties for everybody, but we need to work together with our partners because this is in our mutual interest,” said Michaud.
When asked about taking the case of the high operational cost before IOTC, Michaud said “I do not think that IOTC is interested in such” a case.
Herrera gave the interview to SNA in early December, at a time when all six vessels halted their fishing activities as quota allocation limits had been reached. Some of the vessels used this downtime to undergo repair works, while the majority remain anchored outside Port Victoria.
He expressed that any drop in fishing activities may have dire consequences on the economy of the states in which ports the fleet is based, mainly Port Victoria in Seychelles.
“This is because purse seiners unload all their catches in port, unlike most longliners that transship catches on the high seas with no direct benefit to the economies of port states,” said Herrera.
Talking about the road from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to the end of 2022, Herrera the organisation appreciates the efforts made by the government of Seychelles throughout the COVID-19 crisis to maintain the activity of its purse seine fleet. This, he said, shows the understanding of the importance that this activity has to the Seychelles economy.
Fisheries is the second top contributor to the economy of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.