The government of Seychelles says it’s working with international partners to protect its tuna industry from piracy.
Fish exports bring in hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
“Piracy is a serious threat to tuna fisheries management,” said Joel Morgan, Seychelles minister of environment, natural resources and transport. He was speaking at an international conference on tuna fishing held earlier this month in the capital, Victoria, attended by more than 150 scientists, environmentalists and officials from government and industry.
The country’s revenues have dropped by 30% over the past year due to attacks from pirates based in Somalia, he told reporters.
“[It] creates instability and a lack of a structured framework within which we can operate to ensure the fisheries are properly managed.”
The press quotes the pirates as saying that international fishing vessels, including some belonging to Seychelles, illegally fish in Somali waters, a charge Morgan denies.
Furthermore, he said, it is “not at all correct for the pirates to venture 800 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia and come and attack our fishing vessels in our [waters because they say we] are plundering their waters.”
Morgan urged a regional and international approach to the problem.
Canned fish being packed for exportation at the Indian Ocean tuna processing plant in Seychelles
He said his government is working with the European Union, the United States, India and other partners to patrol its waters.
“We are increasing the level of aerial surveillance of the area with assistance from our partners,” he said, “but ultimately we must find a political solution to the situation in Somalia. The long-term answer lies with finding stability in Somalia itself.”
Piracy is not the only factor contributing to a drop in tuna harvests. Others discussed at the conference were climate change, overfishing and illegal fishing.
Bluefin tuna stocks have plummeted by15 percent, driven in part by a demand for sushi and by more efficient fishing trawlers. Environmentalists say the overfishing of the species is so severe that the UN mechanism that regulates international trade in wildlife, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) may ban the trade of the bluefin until stocks can recover.
Seychelles workers process and package tuna in the capital, Victoria
David Ardill, special advisor to the president of Seychelles, urged member states of the regional body, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), to improve the monitoring of trawlers, including those from Indonesia and Taiwan. The commission estimates that illegal or unregulated fishing vessels take up to 10 percent of the region’s total catch.
The Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenyan, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique and other Indian Ocean countries account for nearly 20% of the global annual catch, more than a million tons. Conference participants called on the IOTC to enact improved conservation measures over the next year.