The overall aim of this project was to contribute to the sustainable management of the Praslin near-shore artisanal fishery by identifying and protecting ecologically important habitats and enhancing stock monitoring and assessment.
The specific objectives included:
1. Identification of areas and habitats that are the most important for juvenile rabbit fish within the fringing reef system along the coast of Praslin and recommend that these areas are identified as ecologically important areas.
2. Developing recommendations for better protection of ecologically important habitat for juvenile rabbit fish.
3. Determine the size distribution of species retained by the 40 mm hexagonal mesh sizes traps, as a ground work for future studies on trap mesh sizes selectivity.
4. Determine the size whereby 50% of the rabbit fish (Siganus sutor) population becomes mature
Praslin is the second largest inhabited island in the Seychelles archipelago. A large portion of the fish catch landed on Praslin comes from the artisanal trap fishery that mainly targets rabbitfish (Scr: kordonyen; Family: Siganidae) and parrotfish (Scr: kakatwa, Family: Scaridae). The rabbitfish is particularly vulnerable from over-fishing as it forms large spawning aggregations at specific times and place (Robinson et al, 2011; Bijoux et al. 2013). On Praslin, fishers know about the locations and timing of these aggregations and have exploited them extensively over the years (Hornell, 1927; Robinson et al, 2011). Recent modelling work has shown that the most effective management action for protecting this species, the fishery and livelihood that depends on it is through the protection of juvenile habitats (Grüss et al. 2013). As juvenile mortality is usually very high, the rate of mortality at this stage plays an important role in determining stock structure. Since juveniles often shelters in seagrass and seaweed beds the quality of these habitats is key in ensuring survival to adulthood, surplus production and sustainability of artisanal fishery.
Aesthetically, seagrass and seaweed habitats are not the prettiest and continue to be affected by anthropogenic activities. These activities are often in the form of habitat alterations for the construction of sandy bathing areas as is currently being practiced by some hotels or by being the chosen sites for discharging brine from desalination plants. Large scale dredging and reclamation has permanently destroyed large portions of productive fishing ground around the East coast of Mahé. Such large scale dredging and reclamation has recently taken place on Praslin and their ecological impacts are already being felt. There is wide spread agreement amongst fishermen that the disappearance of spawning aggregations of rabbitfish at Paté Consolation is a direct result of a change in water quality at this site caused by the construction of Eve Island in the bay of Baie Ste Anne. Fishermen claim that since reclamation started the sea in the area has become murkier with a lot of silt on the reef surface which makes it unsuitable for rabbitfish to attach their eggs to. Protection of critical habitat is thus important to ensure that enough juvenile fish survives to be recruited in the fishery. However, there is currently no way of prioritising nursery habitats for this species.
The main beneficiaries of this project is the near-shore artisanal fishermen of Praslin. These fishermen and their families are directly dependent on fishing for their livelihood. It is in their interest and that of the whole population that important habitats that contributes to the fishery are identified and protected. The protection of these critical habitats will allow the artisanal fishery to be more productive at the same time it will promote the conservation of other components of biodiversity (e.g. other commercial species) at the protected sites. This will result in higher fisheries production and sustainability of revenue from the fishery.
1. GIS layers identifying different areas of the fringing reef of Praslin based on the abundance of juvenile rabbitfish that they support. This can be used as a proxy of the areas importance as critical habitats.
2. A list of recommendations for protection of habitats found to be of ecologicallyimportant importance for juvenile rabbitfish.
3. Size distribution of fish species retained by the commercial fish traps, which will provide baseline data to consider future work on the selectivity of different trap mesh sizes
4. The length (Lm50) at which 50% of the population of siganus sutor become mature
Additional outputs after the project:
1. Community -based monitoring programme
2. Survey of adult rabbit fishes
The major challenge encountered was that many activities could not be implemented on time due to the non-involvement of some project partners. This caused major delays. In addition, the project did not have a steering committee to review progress being made and issue arising as the project was implemented. The implementation of the trap survey provided new and very useful data on diversity of catch in the trap fishery and the selectivity of trap at length for a number of commonly caught species. However, as the traps had slightly different configurations the data cannot be used for comparison between traps. This is an issue that can be easily rectified in future trap-based surveys by commissioning of new traps with exact specifications. The fact that no one was given the responsibility for inputting the data collected as part of the catch monitoring program into a spread sheet resulted in accumulation of lots of completed data sheet at the office. This has now been rectified and all data have been captured in an Excel spread sheet. The community-based monitoring programme is providing to be very successful.
- Communication – newsletter, news item in press at the launching of the project, photographs, filming footage available for mounting video, poster developed
- Climate change / DRR activities–stock monitoring and recommendation for the fishery is a valuable tool for safeguarding livelihoods from the potential impacts of climate change.. The data being collected will form the basis of any future decision should there be a crisis as a result of changes in climate pattern affecting the fishery
- Gender – Artisanal fishing in Seychelles is essentially a 'man’s job', but the PFA administrative is female and many of the SFA staff working alongside the PFA in the project were female technicians
West coast of Praslin island, Seychelles
1st Jul 2012 to 31st Mar 2014
Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) - USD 17'210.65
Praslin Fishers' Association - USD 8'975.42
Seychelles Fishing Authority - Jude Bijoux +248 4670300; firstname.lastname@example.org
Praslin Fishers' Association - Darrel Green + 248 2527550; email@example.com
1 . “This was the first time that I’ve seen a beach seine being used on Praslin. I was sitting on the beach at Marie-Jeanne Estate and saw the fishermen pulling it in. It looks like tough job requiring a lot of effort. My friends and I wanted to have a better look. So we walked across the beach to meet with the fishermen. I could not believe my eyes at the diversity of fish that were living in the seagrass just by the beach. I’ve never thought of seagrass as a good habitat for fish. I’ve always seen them as a nuisance when they get washed up on the beach. Seeing the diversity of the fishes that were being captured and the fishermen returning each one of them to the sea, alive and well after they had been measured, changed my opinion about seagrass environment. I think they are really important. If they are important for the fishes they must be important for us.”
Jane Albert, Student, Praslin Secondary School
2. “I’ve been a fishermen fisherman for more than 20 years but I have always stayed in the boat. I can hardly swim. When Darrell, the chairperson of our fishers association, said that we were going to implement a project in which we were going to snorkel and explore which habitats have more small fish in them I thought he was crazy and said that he’ll never get me to get in the water. When the day came I tagged along as my other fishermen friends were participating in the project. They jumped in and told me to come and see how nice the area is. I stayed in the boat manning the engine as they did their survey. At the end of the survey Fred told me to come and have a look. I was reluctant at first but then put on my mask and snorkel. What had I to loose, we were only in 1 metre of water and there is no way that I could have drowned. I’m a fisherman but have never seen fish this way before. There were lots of them of different sizes. The small ones were swimming about and regularly taking shelter among the Sargassum thickets. The large ones kept their distance. I think they knew that we were fishermen!! I stayed in the water for only 5 minutes but that little snorkel changed the way I looked at fish and the environment that supports them that many times we as fishermen takes for granted.”
Bery Barbe, Member of Praslin Fishers Association , Consolation