Ocean FAD Articles > Tuna Conference in Seychelles

Report on Seychelles Tuna Confence and pirate fishing in the Indian Ocean
19 Apr 2011

 

 Report on the Seychelles Tuna Conference, April 2011

By: OFAD President, John Harder

Seychelles is a beautiful group of Islands nestled in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Seychelles Islands lye just north of another Island named Mauritius. These Islands have major canneries that provide Tuna to the European Union.

Seychelles and Mauritius are known as “The Seafood Hub” offering services and trade between Europe, Asia, and Africa. These Islands are also known to be “The Indian Ocean Heaven for Pirate Fishing Vessels”.

In recent years, piracy from Somalia, nearly 1,000 miles away on the coast of Africa, has struck hard. Catches of yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna from within the Seychelles 540,000 square mile Exclusive Economic Zone has fallen dramatically as have port revenues and income from fishing licenses, according to Seychelles finance minister Danny Faure.“Revenue has dropped as they are afraid to fish in these seas, there has been a huge drop and we’re still looking at it,” he said.“Total catch within our Exclusive Economic Zone has dropped by 45 percent from 55,241 metric tons in 2008 to 30,288 metric tons in 2009, and that can be largely attributed to piracy,” he said.

The tuna industry is the second biggest earner in the Seychelles,” said environment minister Joel Morgan. Fishing license fees alone can add up to $15 million a year for the government.

Piracy caused a fifth of the registered vessels to quit the tuna fleet last year, said Faure, while the reduced catch caused unemployment to increase among the dock workers of Port Victoria and a slowdown at the immense tuna plant.

I met environment minister Joel Morgan in Brussels, 2009 at the European Tuna Conference. He gave a great presentation on the pirate situation and was requesting more protection. He, like OFAD, expressed concern for enforcement. We talked a bit afterwards and hit it off well. After I asked Joel about driftnet activity, he noted that driftnets were rampid in the Indian Ocean. Joel talked as if his major concern was towards sustainability of our ocean’s resources. Minister Morgan invited OFAD to Seychelles at the time, but I humbly declined on account of OFAD’s limited resources. OFAD got an invite last year too, but we had been working on the home front of the Pacific West Coast with the Pacific Fishery Management Council . I was looking forward to meeting up with Joel again and seeing how things had progressed.

Peter Sinon, Minister for Investments, Natural Resources and Industry of the Republic of Seychelles opened the conference with a speech that emphasized the important role of tuna fisheries and natural resources to coastal states in the region.

“The existence of a seemingly abundant stock of tuna cannot be claimed to be a design of any man but is a gift from nature,” Minister Sinon remarked. He added that, “We intend to send the strongest message possible to highlight the fact that our intention is to protect our blue gold.”

Around 24% of the world’s tuna is caught in the waters of the Indian Ocean, making sustainability a driving issue for industries, economies and the marine environment. Following the momentum generated last year, organizers of the Seychelles 2nd Tuna Conference set out to continue a regional conversation on improving the sustainability of tuna resources. Experts presented on topics including bycatch,fishing capacity,chain of custody and expectations of all stakeholders.

"Consumers are becoming more and more aware of what they eat today; they are becoming more conscious of responsible, good fishing practices,” Minister Sinon added. “I hereby pledge the relentless commitment of the government of Seychelles to continue to work toward an even more sustainable tuna industry.” 

This all sounds great with good intentions focused on sustainability, but let me shed some light on “The Big Picture”. MW Brands, the new proud owners of a high tech cannery in Seychelles since 2010 (last year), is made up of Thai Union (Chicken of the Sea), Heinz (Starkist Tuna with Korean partner Dongwon Group), and John West brand in the UK. This new merger combines many super powers of the Tuna Canning Industry of the world. MW Brands also supports and directs the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF) that gives them the edge of scientific analogy and government influence from the US and Europe combined. This is overwhelming power!  

In the mean time, just 1,000 miles south, on the Island of Mauritius is a “state of the art” cannery, under the Princes Brand, that was completed in 2000.The patented system has been designated as an ITCC® – Integrated Thawing, Cooking and evaporative Cooling System. Until now (2011) no other manufacturer has delivered a similar line where the process of thawing, cooking and cooling takes place in one operation! The goal for the new system was to attain a production of 150 tn. of tuna per day within three years, but that goal was reached within a merely 21 days following a few minor adjustments to the system. The factory employs 2,000 persons and currently produces between 220 and 230 tn. per day. 

Thon des MascareignesLtd, a subsidiary of the IBL Group, started operating a tuna loining plant in May 2005 in Mauritius.The factory is actually producing 250Tons of Tuna per day & employs 1600 people. The factory was built in strict accordance with the regulations & standards required by Europe & the US Department of Agriculture. We comply with the regulations & standard laid down by the European Commission with respect to food. 

Princes Foods are owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest general trading company.The U.S. firm Bumble BeeFoods has a tuna supply and processing agreement with the Government of Mauritius which is promoting the Freeport as the Seafood Hub. This entailed both Seychelles & Mauritius duty free seafood access into the EU, lowering tariffs by 50% to some Asian States. 

All this said about the two canneries in the Indian Ocean, Princes Foods and John West Brand are age old enemies  competing in the Tuna market in the UK. 

 Both Brands, and all their partners, support “driftnet” fishing as a method of catching Tuna! None of these Brands of Tuna, including ISSF, support or promote the sustainable (MSC) “Pole & Troll” fishery!

Greenpeace did a survey that ranked Princes, which supplies one third of the UK’s tinned tuna, bottom of eight branded and supermarket own-brand tunas for sustainability. John West, another big tuna company, was ranked second bottom

Both companies heavily rely on purse seining which scoops up and kills all marine life congregating under man-made rafts known as fish aggregating devices (FADS) including sharks and turtles.

” Princes had been stating on its labels: “Princes is fully committed to fishing methods which protect the marine environment and marine life. 

Greenpeace complained to the Office of Fair Trading that Princes’ labeling was misleading the public.The new label will read: “To view our seafood sustainability statement, visit princes.co.uk”. 

Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco announced that it was abandoning purse seining and moving to the more sustainable pole and line method by 2012. Tesco said: “We’ve been moving in this direction for some time – just recently we increased the proportion of pole-and-line to 25 per cent of our own brand canned tuna as a step towards our goal.

Greenpeace had been intending to rank Tesco last in its table but, following its change of heart, ranked it fourth, behind Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose which sell only pole and line-caught tuna.

Fishing with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the Indian Ocean 

  It has been known for ages that logs, branches, whales, and other large floating objects aggregate (collect) fish under them. In Southeast Asia and in the Pacific, large quantities of fish are caught under such Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD). FAD's were introduced to the area by UNDP and FOA back in 1985 to help local fishermen, who were experiencing poor fishing close to the Island shores & lagoons. This would encourage local fishermen to venture off the shore line where they can more than double their catch rate. These manmade rafts are made of heavy construction to take the weather and placed around 12 miles apart to keep from interacting with each other.

As the FAD fishing technique caught on, more & more FADs were placed by large purse seine vessels all around the Indian Ocean Islands deterring fish from collecting near the Islands themselves. It was said that foreign vessels come as close as 7 miles off the coast line to target on FAD's made for the Artesian fishermen. Catches on FADs close to the coast lines have been drastically reduced and fishing villages are squeezed out of business leaving them to find work by other means such as tourism.

There has been a lot of effort studding these FADs and a major push to extend the study further. 

I disagree! The fishing technique, using FADs, as been abused and now harm local fishing communities. Methods of Purse Seine nets and driftnets have discriminated against the “hook & line” methods once again and is in violation of the United Nations “Freedom of the Sea”.

FADs are not natural. They are manmade and should be used at a minimal amount. I also feel that FADs, outside the coast line, should be "free floating" and not fixed as to flow with the ocean currents. I also feel that FADs should be shared by all, especially in international waters.

Needless to say, Ocean FAD (Friends Against Driftnets) did not get a warm welcome at the Seychelles 2nd Annual Tuna Conference. I passed out new T shirts to the prominent delegates of the meeting and wished them all well. I saw a befuddled look on many so called “sustainable tuna organizers” as if they had their hands tied.

Greenpeace, on the other hand, gave me a pat on the back for encouragement and said, “Keep up the good work”! Greenpeace has always been OFAD’s ally, yet fall short in mentioning the distinct differences between the “hook & Line” method used for the “Long Line” fishery and the “driftnet” method used by the “driftnet” fishery, disguised as Long Liners. After all, there is no “driftnet” fishery on the record.

Port authorities in these Islands and all over the world should keep in mind and high regard, the differences between the two methods of fishing and know how to detect them. One method (driftnets), is highly unsustainable and noted as IUU fish!

Port measures such as “No processing tuna loins at sea without an on-board inspection & certification”, or “Whole tuna fish landings only from transshipments, or carrier ships” would help detect tuna with driftnet markings. The abundance of catch is another red flag, as driftnet vessels could catch up to three times more than Long Liners. This discrepancy, along with size variation and area of fishing help too as driftnet landed Albacore Tuna fish will be smaller tuna, on an average, and will fish further south in the cooler waters, compared to larger tuna from the long liners and remain fishing in the tropical waters.

Observer programs must be improved so that fishing vessels are NOT the ones paying the observer, nor is the observer from the same state as the vessel.

Having an international observer program that is highly funded by all nations would strengthen the fight to eliminate IUU fishing. I know the cost may be high, but it’s a small price that will build our confidence in achieving our ultimate goal of sustainable ocean resources. 

In closing, many changes are needed to aid the Indian Ocean in reaching sustainability, but 1st step is to admit that there is a driftnet problem.  In closing, many changes are needed to aid the Indian Ocean in reaching sustainability, but 1st step is to admit that there is a driftnet problem. 

Regards to all, OFAD President- John Harder

 

There has been a lot of effort studding these FADs and a major push to extend the study further. 

There has been a lot of effort studding these FADs and a major p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both companies heavily rely on purse seining which scoops up and kills all marine life congregating under man-made rafts known as fish aggregating devices (FADS) including sharks and turtles. 

 

 

 

 

Greenpeacedid a survey that ranked Princes, which supplies one third of the UK’s tinned tuna, bottom of eight branded and supermarket own-brand tunas for sustainability. John West, another big tuna company, was ranked second bottom

 

 

 

John Harder