Seychelles plans to making EMS obligatory by law on large fishing vessels

The Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) was installed on two purse seiners in 2016 in a pilot project. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles seeks to amend its Fisheries Act to input the need for the installation of electronic monitoring systems (EMS) onboard large-scale fishing vessels, a move that will ensure monitoring at sea is more reliable.

This was outlined during a briefing by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to the Minister of Fisheries and Blue Economy, Jean-Francois Ferrari, the Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert, and the interim chief executive of Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Philippe Michaud.

The Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) was installed on two purse seiners in 2016 in a pilot project by the SFA with the assistance of the Common Oceans ‘Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction’ (ABJN) Tuna Project. It was done through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between SFA and the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers(OPAGAC).

The system has cameras that record in real time for the duration of the fishing trip, which is usually around 25-40 days. The video footage is stored on a hard disk and can then be removed and viewed by ‘dry observers’ based at the headquarters as soon as the vessel arrives in the port.

TNC, in collaboration with SFA, is providing technical support, project management leadership, and financial support to improve the financial and environmental performance of Seychelles’ fisheries. Since 2021, the project is being funded through an International Climate Initiative (IKI) grant.

The system has cameras that record in real time for the duration of the fishing trip, which is usually around 25-40 days. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

This includes supporting coastal and large-scale fisheries activities with tools like FishPath, electronic monitoring, and fish aggregating device (FAD) management, which have ultimately contributed to certain activities within the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) preparation process.

The project director for the Large Scale Fisheries Programme of The Nature Conservancy, Ana Nadal, outlined that through the project, “there has been an increase in the number of vessels that have installed EMS. However, due to the fact that electronic monitoring is not part of the Fisheries Act, some vessel owners outlined that they are not obliged to install such systems.”

The TNC Marine Spatial Plan project manager, Helena Sims, said that “in the fisheries comprehensive plan, there are directives to have EMS on all vessels, but it is not a legal requirement. […] For us to be able to move in that direction we need to have a policy that will outline the guidelines for EMS in Seychelles.”

Last year, Seychelles brought a resolution to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to recognise electronic monitoring as part of the standards for collecting data for observers onboard fishing vessels. The country asked for the IOTC Scientific Committee to develop minimum standards for collecting fisheries statistics, especially for scientific purposes. 

The principal secretary for fisheries, Roy Clarisse, who was also present at the briefing, said that “Australia took the recommendation from the scientific committee and brought forward a resolution which we supported in the meeting that happened in Mauritius to basically establish the minimum standards so that we can use electronic monitoring for scientific purposes.”

“For us, we want to go a bit further in the future to also use it for compliance purposes. I think this is the aim because electronic monitoring is our eyes on the sea where we cannot put humans.  It’s also there to complement what the human observers are doing,” he added.

During the meeting, the participants were briefed on the status of activities being undertaken by TNC to support the fisheries industry of Seychelles. TNC has been supporting the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) since 2014.

“Activities started in 2021 to support sustainable fisheries. It deals mostly with coastal fisheries and it is using an innovative tool – FishPath – to see how strategies can be drafted so as to have management places for these fisheries in Seychelles. Currently, priorities are spanner crabs and lobster,” said Sims.

“The other component looks at electronic monitoring piloting on tuna fishing vessels. It is also looking at the FAD management plan in the Indian Ocean,” continued Sims.

A team from IKI is expected in the country in July for the mid-year project evaluation. 

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