Mauritius charts growth path for fisheries and aquaculture sectors
Mauritius is implementing a fisheries and aquaculture reform program to empower small-scale businesses along the fishing industry value chain, revamp the country’s marine fish stocks, and promote aquaculture through more public private partnerships.
The Indian Ocean island nation, which derives 1.5 percent of its GDP growth from the fishing industry, expects that by the end of current fiscal year it will be in possession of accurate data on local fish stocks within its 2.3-million-square-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and open up more market opportunities locally and abroad for its marine capture and aquaculture produce.
Latest government statistics indicates a decline in the country’s marine capture of 11 percent, which accounts for up to 92.5 percent of the Mauritian total fish production. However, there has been a 6 percent growth in aquaculture fish production since 2003.
“To consolidate and diversify our fisheries and seafood industry, a stock assessment will be conducted to better manage and protect species such as lobsters, squid, and other small commercial pelagic fish,” Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said in a statement.
Jugnauth outlined some of the achievements of Mauritius’ fisheries and aquaculture sector in the last four years, such as increasing exports of fisheries products to 119,500 metric tons (MT) in 2019 – valued at MUR 14.9 billion (USD 407 million, EUR 367 million) – and the success in enforcing an annual two-month closure of the country's octopus fishery, allowing growth in the species' size and population.
Going forward, Mauritius, which reported total landings of just 7,309 MT in 2013, is expected to focus on increasing marine capture, especially by small-scale fishers, and enhancing the efficiency of local fish processing plants.
For example, Mauritius extended a small medium enterprises (SME) financing scheme for three years, which includes small-scale fishing industry value chains and knocking out all trade fees for businesses that generate not more than MUR 5,000 (USD 136, EUR 123).
Moreover, the government has increased the daily rate of bad weather allowance for fishermen from MUR 310 (USD 8, EUR 7) to MUR 340 (USD 9, EUR 8).
Furthermore, Mauritius – which produces 3.7 percent of the total Indian Ocean Commission fishery production – is proposing in the next year to utilize its SME fisheries and aquaculture sector to enhance the country’s visibility in the global seafood market by using specially developed labels.
Currently, the export earnings from Mauritius’ fisheries and aquaculture sectors represents 17.6 percent of the country’s total international sales income, which the government is now eager to raise by expanding access to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) market. The SADC is a 16-member inter-governmental organization based in Botswana that promotes socio-economic cooperation and integration, as well as political security among members. It also wants to increase sales to the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Jugnauth has also proposed setting up an online and physical fish auction market to act as an interface between local fishermen, fishing companies, and buyers both local and international.
At the moment, Mauritius has in the 2019/2020 fiscal year set aside a MUR 3,000 (USD 82, EUR 74) grant to enable SMEs to subscribe to the e-commerce platform designed and operated by the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Ensuring a steady source of market intelligence relevant to Mauritian firms will be a necessary step,” Jugnauth said.
However, Mauritius is also grappling with various challenges that threaten to hamper its planned growth of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, such as the adverse impact of climate change on the country’s marine ecosystem, and persisting Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and maritime piracy.
In addition, Mauritius faces shortage of “qualified and experienced technical personnel to develop the ocean economy and a harmonized regulatory framework to regulate ocean–related activities,” according to the country’s 2017-2020 National Export Strategy Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector.
“Biosecurity and supply of juveniles are also key aspects that need to be secured before developing aquaculture activities any further,” the report said.
Currently, Mahebourg Marine Farm (FMM) is the largest aquaculture farm in Mauritius, with a production capacity of 850 metric tons (MT) of red drum. But production has been far lower than the initially-anticipated 3,000 MT by 2019-2020.
Meanwhile, Mauritius has committed to streamlining the procedures required for fishing-vessel registration, and establishing concession agreements and reviews of the current fishing industry regulatory framework to make it more progressive. The government has also pledged additional regulations for the fish-processing industry in Mauritius to avert creating excessive pressure on the country’s existing fish stocks for raw materials and inputs.
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