The Minister responsible for fisheries in Mauritius recently announced that in 2016 the octopus’ fishery would be closed for two months (August and September) at national level. This decision follows a voluntary pilot octopus closure project in the south of Mauritius funded by the SmartFish programme and implemented by the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society. Results obtained shows that the closure period impacted positively as the octopus increased in size and weight to the delight of the fishers concerned.
It is to be noted that Rodrigues started the first closure for the octopus’s fishery in 2012. This two months’ closure period (August/September) has impacted positively on the supply chain in Rodrigues. The results obtained has been very encouraging and landings of octopus more than doubled.
For the 2015 season, it is to be noted that some 12 tonnes of octopus were collected on the first day of re-opening as compared to some 10 tonnes collected in 2014 on the first day of the re-opening season. To cater for the needs of the octopus’s fishers, the Rodrigues Regional Assembly provided alternative jobs during the closure period. So far this has been satisfactory to all concerned.
In Madagascar, a similar closure period of four months (July to October 2015), was introduced for the collect for the mud crab (Scylla serrata) and new control measures were put in force by the Ministry of Fisheries for the exportation of live crabs by authorised establishments. Indeed, collection of mud crab in Madagascar is traditional composed mainly of on-foot or pirogue fishers using simple techniques and fishing gears (handlines or hooks mounted on sticks). The mangrove forests, the natural habitat of the mud crab (Scylla serrate), are often in remote and difficult to access areas. However, the high demand for this variety of crab on the international market has pushed this traditional activity to become more export-oriented, which has led to the development of complex collection channels and constant increases in production.
The decree of 24th October 2014, requires exporters to set up an aquaculture farm which they would not be authorised to export. This is in line with government policy for a sustainable exploitation and valorisation of the mud crab fishery. Official figures indicate a current production of some 2,500t annually. However, this remains well below the potential of Madagascar’s mangroves forest (325,000 ha), whose annual productivity offers fishing potential estimated at 7,500 t of crabs.
The sustainability of this fishery is threatened due to a lack of enforcement measures with respect to size of crabs. Indeed, the small crab’s exploitation compromises the renewal of the stock. Thus, collect of crabs with carapace width of less than 10 cm is prohibited. Processing plants are subject to regular inspections, but upstream operators, as well as town and village-level markets, are rarely inspected. As a result, some mangrove areas, especially the most accessible ones, are already showing signs of overexploitation and fewer large crabs are being marketed (there is a prevalence of medium-sized crabs, between 12 and 14 cm).
Marketing channels consist of a network of wholesalers and collectors at the village and district levels, supplying both local markets and exporting companies based in coastal towns or in the capital city, Antananarivo. However, the profitability of crab exports and the low purchasing power of the Malagasy people, are the basis of the decline in local consumption often limited to smaller crabs of little interest to collectors and exporters. It is estimated that 75% of the crab production is destined for export, mostly to the French market (metropolitan France and overseas territories) which absorbs about 80% of the volume.
Low value-addition is also a major obstacle to achieving its full economic potential. Indeed, exports of Scylla serrata are composed of 93% (by volume) of frozen pieces, while an increasing demand exists, especially in Asia, for big live crabs (with a selling price per kilo on average twice as high). In 2014 some 2,500 tonnes of live crab were exported as compared to 1,900 in 2013. Total exports for the crab fishery has been set at 4,500 tonnes/year to avoid over exploitation