Fisheries sector gears up for ‘critical’ time


Speaking to the press from his office at Independence House, Minister Jumeau said on Monday afternoon that the new board represents an overall change regarding the handling of the fisheries sector, in which the government would be taking on a more direct and proactive role in guiding policy for the entire industry, with the SFA acting as a technical arm under the ministry that would focus on research, management and development of fisheries.

State House announced last week that President James Michel had appointed a new SFA board of directors, whereby foreign affairs principal secretary Sylvestre Radegonde would assume the post of chairman, replacing Glenny Savy who had held the title for 18 years.

Minister Jumeau said that upcoming negotiations regarding the industrial fishing sector, as well as other issues like the levels of cadmium in Seychelles swordfish that had been restricting access into European markets “are much too important now to be left to one body.”

The choice of a foreign affairs dignitary in Mr Radegonde as chairman, he added, would help gear Seychelles toward negotiating the best possible fisheries deal in upcoming trade talks.

Bilateral fishing agreements with the European Union (EU) will expire next year pending further negotiations, and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) set to replace the Cotonou accord – which gave developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific preferential trade access into Europe – must be in place before 2008.

Officials say that fisheries is the number one foreign exchange earner for Seychelles, including revenue from the local cannery and all associated licensing and port fees.

Without the preferential trade perks for canned tuna enjoyed currently, that figure could shrink considerably.

One added concern for Seychelles is that Port Victoria, though still the most dominant fishing port in the Indian Ocean region, could soon be facing competition from countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius, who appear to be in various stages toward developing their own fishing ports.

Minister Jumeau said the new SFA board would assure permanent consultation among public sector officials directly involved in the industry, such as principal state counsel Ronny Govinden, Port and Marine director general Wilton Ernesta and Central Bank economist Brian Commettant, in an attempt to stay ahead of all these developments.

SFA managing director Rondolph Payet, the newly appointed fisheries advisor to Minister Jumeau’s office, Phillippe Michaud, and former secretary general of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission David Ardill round out the rest of the SFA board.

Mr Savy, it was revealed by State House last week, will serve as chairman to a Fisheries Advisory Council that is expected to be dominated by leading parties from the industry’s private sector.

But Minister Jumeau said that the council would not be an executive body capable of issuing directives. Instead, it will make recommendations through the minister’s office, which could then be taken to Cabinet for approval and ultimately carried out by the SFA, for instance.

The SFA, he mentioned, would also relinquish control of the fishing ports in Victoria and other districts. They will fall under the responsibility of a new port management authority expected to be finalised soon.

Minister Jumeau also said that while the focus in fisheries might be shifting overseas for the time being, issues for artisanal and semi-industrial fishermen would not be overlooked. The economic importance of the tuna industry in particular, however, will have to take precedence for now.

“We have to do this now or we miss the boat,” Minister Jumeau said. “We’ll regret it if we don’t.”

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