Seychelles moves to cushion artisanal fishers from COVID-19 impacts
Government-owned Seychelles Fisheries Authority (SFA) has announced a reduction of the prices for core artisanal fishing tools, intended to help fishers cope with unpredictable fish and fish products’ market conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newly-appointed interim SFA CEO Cyril Bonnelame said the reduction of the price of bait, which is mostly used by the small-scale and artisanal fishers; and also for ice, used largely to slow down fish spoilage before reaching the market; will influence the pricing of fish sold to processors and subsequently to consumers.
Bonnelame said the price of a kilo of bait has been reduced from SCR 15 (EUR 0.80 USD 0.87) to SCR 5 (EUR 0.27, USD 0.29), while similar weight of ice will now retail at SCR 15 (EUR 0.80, USD 0.87) down from the previous SCR 30 (EUR 1.59, USD 1.74).
“This attempt will, in turn, be reflected on the price at which fishermen are selling their fish to local processors. Then the processors will [extend] this benefit to consumers," Bonnelame said.
Bonnelame was appointed CEO for SFA on an interim basis last month by Seychellois President Danny Faure, who described the appointment as “vital at a time when the country needed to boost the contribution of the fisheries sector to the national economy, especially in view of the adverse impact of COVID-19 on other economic sectors."
The new pricing regime for bait and ice will only benefit artisanal fishers and fish processing companies that are registered with SFA.
Currently, artisanal fisheries “remain of great importance for food security, employment and cultural identity” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
With an estimated annual production of 4,500 metric tons of fish, Seychelles artisanal fisheries currently “exploit a high diversity of species and habitats with wide array of boat-gear combinations and strategies,” according to the FAO.
The majority of artisanal fishers in Seychelles rely on local market demand, including hotels and restaurants, as their key selling points – industries which have been hard-hit by the outbreak of the COVID-19.
On 27 March, President Faure warned the expected fall in Seychelles’ tourism because of international flight cancellations means “foreign exchange revenues have dropped, and as a people we need to make an effort to reduce our consumption of imported goods.”
The Seychelles, with an estimated annual per capita fish consumption of 58.9 kilograms last year, imported fish and fish products worth USD 165 million (EUR 152 million) far below the USD 525 million (EUR 484 million) in exports. But those figures are expected to change dramatically by the time the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Photo courtesy of the Seychelles State House