Helping protect Praslin Island's fish resources

Location: Praslin, Seychelles. 1st Dec 2014

Praslin is the second largest inhabited island in the Seychelles archipelago. A large portion of the fish catch of Praslin comes from the artisanal trap fishery that mainly targets rabbitfish (Siganidae) and parrotfish (Scaridae). Rabbitfish is particularly vulnerable from overfishing as it forms large spawning groups at specific times and places. On Praslin, fishers know about the locations and timing of these groupings and have exploited them extensively over the years.

MFF in the Seychelles recognizes this threat of overfishing as well as the critical role that artisanal fishers have in addressing this threat and in conserving the fish resources in Praslin. A small grant facility (SGF) project was designed to contribute to the sustainable management of the Praslin near-shore artisanal fishery by identifying and protecting ecologically important habitats.

MFF has worked with the Praslin Fishers Association to build the capacity of the artisanal fishers in Praslin in monitoring fish populations that are critical to fish stock. MFF was also instrumental in facilitating the first co-management plan in Praslin, and through a cross-learning visit with the nearby La Digue islands, also influenced the formation of a new fishers association that will develop a first co-management plan in La Digue. Such activities allowed artisanal fishers to exchange experience and participate in local and national decision making about artisanal fishing.

“I’ve been fishermen for more than 20 years but I have always stayed in the boat," said Mr Bery Barbe, a member of the Praslin Fishers Association. "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 the put on my mask and snorkel. What had I to lose, we were only a meter of water and there is no way that I could have drowned. I’m a fisherman but have never seen fish this way before," said Mr Barbe. "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.” 

The MFF project also assisted in expanding the Praslin locals' appreciation for other coastal ecosystems, such as seagrasses. A student, Jane Albert, expressed this as she witnessed some of the Praslin artisanal fishers at work. "This was the first time that I’ve seen a beach seine being used on Praslin. I was sitting on the beach and saw 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," she said.

"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.” 

Praslin Fishers Association members displays their winning catch in fishing competition

Praslin Fishers Association members displays their winning c ... , Praslin, Seychelles © MFF/IUCN, 2012

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