Emergency plan for the fishing sector rolled out | 07 April 2020
Artisanal fishermen are being encouraged to go out fishing to help sustain our food security in this time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic now that the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has as of yesterday implemented its Emergency Plan for Fisheries, aimed at offering some relief to this sector which is being affected by the grappling effects of the pandemic.
The implementation of the plan, manned by the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), follows its announcement during a live conference last week by Minister Charles Bastienne. The aim of the plan is to guarantee our food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan, approved by the high level committee for food security and the SFA board of directors, came into being after the fish processors, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, stopped buying fish from the artisanal fishermen after the closure and reduced activities of hotels and restaurants which buy the fish from them.
Speaking to the press at the Artisanal Fishing Port, Victoria yesterday morning, the principal secretary for Fisheries, Jude Talma, said that the ministry had, through further consultations with the fisheries sector, worked on the plan and its feasibility and it is now ready to be implemented. The emergency plan, which will be for three months, is mainly targeting the artisanal fishing sector which mostly sell its catch to fish processors who in turn sell the majority of their fish to hotels (30-35%) along with some for export (15-20%).
He explained that the plan remains more or less as was announced by Minister Bastienne which is that the processors will buy all the catch from the fishermen and upon the fish being processed into fillet, slice, packaging, labelling and including pricing, they will further be bought by the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) as the readily-available market, who will in turn distribute them on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue at an affordable prize. Retailers are also encouraged to buy the fish from STC to sell in their shops.
PS Talma stated that the fish processors and the artisanal fishermen have to register with SFA to be on the programme.
He stressed that the programme does not include artisanal fishermen who sell fish in the districts though they will benefit from the reduction in the prize of ice and baits.
He said that if they wish to join the programme to sell their catch with the fish processors, they will have to register with SFA.
He noted that the role of SFA is to act as an agent between the fishermen and fish-processing businesses.
As for the semi-industrial fishing sector which mainly engage in the fishing of tuna for the export market, mainly to Europe and America, PS Talma said that the ministry is in discussion with all stakeholders and is yet to confirm a plan to assist the industry now that the tuna market has closed down.
He said that in the mean time, the ministry has taken the decision for SFA to purchase around 25 tonnes of tuna catch lying in the haul of all the semi-industrial fishing boats since last week and will store them at the Indian Ocean Tuna canning factory (IOT).
He said that SFA will decide later what to do with the purchased tuna.
“As had been said before, the plan is only to ensure that artisanal fishermen continue to go out to fish, the industry keeps on rolling and also that fish is available for local consumption,” PS Talma said.
The chairman and interim chief executive of SFA, Cyril Bonnelame, who was also present at the press briefing, said that upon discussion with the fish processors and the Boat Owners Association (BOA), a set purchase price was agreed upon for some species mainly red snapper (bourzwa) priced at R65 per kilo, zob and vyey at R45 per kilo and karang at R20 per kilo.
He also said that further to their catch being purchased at the set prices, the artisanal fishing sector will also benefit in its operational cost whereby the fishermen will purchase ice at a lower cost of R15 for 60kg bag compared to R30 per 60kg bag as before, bait at R5 per kg compared to R15 per kg as before.
He also noted that, because of the pandemic crisis, the artisanal fishermen will also benefit from the natural reduction of fuel cost at the pump.
“Though some fishermen are still not satisfied with the price set for them to sell their fish to the processors, the decision taken, I think, is in the interest of all parties and that includes that they, the fishermen, don’t lose out and also that fish is available on the market at a reasonable price,” Mr Bonnelame said, noting that with all the incentives that will go into their operational costs, the artisanal fishermen are not expected to be that worse off in this time of the COVID-19 crisis.
Currently there are about 500 artisanal fishing vessels with around 1500 persons employed in the sector. The average catch of demersal fish (deep-sea) on a monthly basis is 400 tonnes, 50 percent of which was sold to hotels and restaurants and the other 50 percent was sold on the local market.