‘Scientists risk lives to save fish stocks’


Chief executive Adolfo Valsecchi – whose company helped bring the scientists together – addressing the delegates

Among those who hailed the efforts were Natural Resources and Industry Minister Peter Sinon who launched a major conference organised by the tuna processing giant MWBrands at the Ephelia resort, and the company’s chief executive Adolfo Valsecchi.

The event allowed scientists to share the new methods they have developed to help save non-targeted fish known as by-catch, and immature tuna.

In an interview with Nation, Mr Sinon said he was impressed that “for the first time ever, people have dared go into nets to see how fish behave once caught so that they (the scientists) can determine the best way of allowing non-target species like sharks to safely leave the nets”.

He said in the past fishers have been using fishing aggravating devices (FADs) to attract catches but nobody had followed as closely as the scientists now have, what happens when stocks are drawn to the FADs and caught.

“They have been observing from above but this time they have gone into the water to be with the fish,” he said.

Mr Valsecchi had earlier told Nation his company is as keen to save stocks as conservationists because without fish the company would have no raw material to process.

On Saturday Mr Valsecchi described the conference – the third such meeting – as a rich one where delegates were moving forward from aspirations and exchange ideas.

“We now have a solid platform to move forward from as we deliver our commitments,” he said, talking of the absolute need to ensure the ocean’s biodiversity and tuna sustainability.

He noted the scientists were reporting on studies they carried out from aboard fishing vessels where they had witnessed activities of the fish and fishing operations firsthand in their bid to protect juvenile tuna and non-targeted species like sharks.

He welcomed presentations from other locations like the western Pacific Ocean where similar studies were being carried out and talked of the value of results from the Seychelles and Maldives fisheries.

Some non-governmental organisations had expressed concern over use of FADS and he expressed confidence that the conference would offer some of the answers they were seeking.

Mr Valsecchi said running the conference here was a good opportunity because the country has the ideal natural conditions which place the country “in the centre of one of the richest tuna fishing grounds”.

He commended the government’s efforts to protect the species and the “very modern and well equipped port where tuna fleets converge, adding that Seychelles also hosts the seat of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission – the scientific and technical authority supervising tuna fishing in the region in collaboration with the Seychelles Fishing Authority which he said has very qualified personnel.

He said the conference was special as it allowed the scientists to report their findings, helping fishing partners to working with solid facts.

Many of the scientists and activists who attended Saturday’s conference are now at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission conference taking place at the Seychelles Trading Company’s conference room in Victoria where they are assessing their findings and looking to recommend binding rules to help cut any risks to stocks which they may determine need to be dealt with.

Among those who presented their findings in the Saturday conference were Dr Victor Restrepo who chairs the ISSF scientific advisory committee.

Dr Restrepo gave a review of the ISSF global research and advocacy actions.
He also talked about the need for management of fishing capacity globally and in the Indian Ocean and the need to monitor catches and avoiding under-reporting.

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