Negotiations between EU and Seychelles for Tuna fisheries

EU-flagged tuna vessels in Port Victoria

The European Union (EU) and the Seychelles met in Brussels on 15-17 April 2013, for the second round of negotiations to agree on a new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which expires in January 2014.

The Agreement with the Seychelles is the most significant tuna agreement in the Indian Ocean both in terms of the fishing access it provides the EU and the financial benefits derived by the Seychelles as a result of the EU fleet’s activities in the region.

Given that the Seychelles acts as a focal point for the operations of the EU fleet in the Indian Ocean, the protocol is of strategic importance to the EU which sees its relations with the Seychelles as being of leading significance in the region, especially in the context of fisheries. The European Commission says that it is a major development partner for the Seychelles as the fishing activities of the EU fleet provide direct employment opportunities locally and thus generate direct benefits for the Seychelles and its wider economy.

It is likely that the negotiations will be concluded at the third round of talks to be held in the Seychelles on 9-10 May, where the discussions will focus on the substantial issues relating to fishing opportunities and financial compensation.

The EU funds overseas fishing projects through Fisheries Partnership Agreements, which environmental groups find problematic since they are given in exchange for access to fishing grounds for European fishing vessels. Some environmental groups say that agreements are highly controversial since evidence has emerged that EU vessels are increasingly responsible for overfishing fishing grounds of developing nations that signed up to them.

The Agreements and the tuna fishing industry itself are extremely important to the Seychelles economy, benefiting a wide array of local stakeholders. As regards the Agreements, between 2005 and 2011 the EU paid the Seychelles at least € 24,750,000 for licenses. Last year the EU provided funding for the construction of a new tuna fishing quay and related infrastructure.

In April this year the EU provided a grant of  294,000 Euro to Seychelles through the Smartfish Porgram implemmented in the region by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the regional intergovernmental body, for the purpose of strengthening fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Seychelles is host to one of the world’s largest tuna cannery, the Indian Ocean Tuna company , which is the country’s largest employer and capable of producing 1.5 million cans a day. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the regional fisheries management organization for tuna, is also located in Seychelles


Source of image: Hunt Deltel


Tagging Tuna in the Indian Ocean

Many people believe research is a waste of time and money for small countries like Seychelles. But when you are dealing with fish like tuna that can swim long distances at speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour, that are heavily exploited and whose trade runs into billions of US Dollars, knowing more about their habits is critical to our own welfare. One of the ways to do this is to put tags on them and when they are fished to get the date of capture, the location and biological details.

I learnt to tag tuna on a Japanese research fishing vessel in the distant reaches of the Seychelles EEZ. That was back in 1987. At the time tuna tagging was only done sporadically and in fact when I returned from that long trip the French scientists working for what was then called ORSTOM were very keen to know the details of the Japanese tagging program.

Now, the results of the first comprehensive tuna tagging program in the Indian Ocean have started to come in. The Regional Tuna Tagging Project –Indian Ocean (RTTP-IO) began in 2002 with an initial tagging project in Mayotte and with feasibility studies. The intensive and large scale tagging began in 2005 and ran up to 2007.

Funding of 14 million Euros was made available by the European Union and the project was implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and supervised by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). The success of the tagging project depends on the good will of the fishers who recover and report the tagged fish. To date, RTTP-IO says that 26,800 tagged fish have been recovered and reported. The best data comes from at-sea recoveries by tuna purse seiners where the fish can be kept and biological measurement taken.

One of the first results coming out of the project demonstrates that the Yellowfin tuna stock is close to or already being over fished. This is a serious state of affairs and matches other studies that have been done on this species. Assessment of skipjack and bigeye tuna will now be undertaken using the tagging data.

The Indian Ocean tuna fishery is one of the most lucrative fisheries in the world. The annual catch in the Indian Ocean of almost a million tons has a landed value of more than 2 billion US dollars. For Seychelles, as is the case for other involved countries, this industry plays a vital role in the economy. Knowing more about the state of tuna stocks will help us maintain their biological resilience and in turn maintain our own economic resilience.