Yes we can make fisheries sustainable!

The world’s fisheries are in bad shape. Not only are most of them in decline but other problems such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, pollution and environmental destruction are mounting. The collapse of all commercial species within the next 50 years is expected if action is not taken. Customers all over the world have now become wary, even paranoid, of purchasing sea food.

But now the Labeling Program of the Seychelles Hook and Line Fishermen is up and running. This is a first-of-its-kind program in Seychelles that targets international markets to assure customers that the fish are caught responsibly and keeping to the highest standards.

The Labeling Program was initiated by some fishermen themselves because they realized the quality of their products is indeed high. To improve this value and emphasize the exceptional fishery, environment, and product quality, they decided to label the fish, hence making it unique and easily identifiable.

Schooner and whaler fishermen are involved in this scheme and the labeled fish are caught using only the hook and line method. Line fishing is a common traditional technique. The size of the “circle hook” allows mostly larger fish which have already reproduced to be caught. Another advantage is the incapability of catching or causing harm to turtles, sea birds or habitats.

With the web site now operational anybody who purchases a fish labeled by the Seychelles Hook and Line Fishermen can find out who caught the fish and where and how it was caught. This assures customers of the origin, quality, traceability and sustainability of the fish. It will also allow customers to support local people who make an honest and fair living from a noble profession.

Boat owners and operators involved in the project have agreed to comply with a code of conduct and a specification on the quality of their work on board including capture, storage, handling and traceability, The hotels, restaurants and retailers supporting this scheme are also pledging their commitment by signing a letter of agreement.

The project, funded by the European Union, is led by the Seychelles Fishing Boat Owners Association (FBOA) with assistance from the SFA and the Association des Ligneurs de la Pointe Bretagne. This is a unique and very important initiative not only because of the environmental and economic benefits but also because it is driven and owned by the stakeholders themselves. Since the operators who make up the FBOA, and the fishers and others who work for them, will be the direct beneficiaries, it means that the industry itself will ensure that environmental and health and safety criteria are respected.

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Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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