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Artisanal fishers identify barriers to implementing sustainable fisheries initiatives in African SIDS   |26 July 2022

Artisanal fishers identify barriers to implementing sustainable fisheries initiatives in African SIDS   

View of Port Victoria (Photo: Jess Glass)

Seafood labelling systems are used in countries worldwide to provide consumers with information on the status of the fish they are eating, enabling them to choose more sustainable options and driving fishers to target more sustainable species.

However, to date, no sustainable seafood labelling initiative has been established domestically in African small island developing states (SIDS), or in any SIDS globally. SIDS depend on healthy marine ecosystems, yet these nations are some of the most vulnerable to climate change and over-exploitation of fisheries resources. Small-scale fishery resources, in particular, are critical for food security and economic livelihoods in SIDS.

A Seychellois-led team of international scientists and practitioners set out to establish the feasibility of establishing a seafood labelling system in Seychelles, and better understand the specific considerations that are unique to SIDS. The project lead in Seychelles Sheena Talma explains the motivation for the project: “Outwardly Seychelles appears an ideal candidate for a sustainable seafood labelling and consumption programme… However, SIDS like Seychelles come with their own complex structure of seafood value-chains and socio-economic considerations which are essential to understand if you want an initiative to succeed.”

The team on-the-ground in Seychelles interviewed 33 artisanal fishers to gauge the level of support for such an initiative and to understand the perceived barriers and potential incentives for implementation. The interviews were led by Seychellois fisheries scientist Greg Berke who explains why being a local and trusted is critical for getting the best information from fishers.

“These types of interviews only really work if the interviewer is perceived as being neutral, ideally someone they know is not trying to inflict change and who they feel they can express their true opinions to without judgement.”

Of the respondents, 64% would like to see a programme implemented but only 34% thought it would be successful. Participants identified several barriers and benefits that primarily spanned socio-economic and regulatory themes. The barriers most frequently mentioned by fishers were concerns over how such an initiative would be regulated and enforced within the industry, as well as pointing out that there is often a lack of control by fishers as to what species they catch. The most frequently perceived benefit of such a programme was the potential to increase the price of a broader range of species.

Lead author of the paper summarising these results, Dr Jessica Glass, explains the value of the findings: “Our findings are really the first piece of the puzzle and we are conducting similar interviews with all stakeholder groups, including retailers and consumers to really understand the implications of a seafood labelling system across the whole value-chain. We are hoping this could enable a more informed approach to implementing such programmes in Seychelles and other African SIDS.”

Sheena Talma added: “The study represents a truly successful collaboration between local and international scientists (UK, USA, Canada, South Africa), drawing on individual team member strengths to ensure we maximise the value of this project.”

The study findings have now been published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Marine Science’ special issue on Marine Conservation and Sustainability. The project was funded by a grant from the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT).



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