Philippe Michaud graduated in economics from the London School of Economics. On his return to Seychelles he worked as economist at the Ministry of Planning and External Relations. In 1984, he joined the newly created Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA). He led the SFA for a number of years. He also served as the Technical Adviser (Fisheries) to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and in 2006 moved as Technical Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was appointed in February as Special Adviser (The Blue Economy) in the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy. Mr. Michaud is also the current Chairman of the SFA.
Q1. You have been associated for a long time with the fisheries sector in Seychelles. How do you see the evolution?
There has been a spectacular evolution of the fisheries sector since the early eighties. A radical transformation took place in 1984 when the commercial industrial tuna purse seining started operations in Seychelles. This led to Port Victoria becoming the most important tuna port of the Indian Ocean. There was a massive arrival of French and Spanish purse seiners from the Atlantic and now tuna fishing and tuna related activities are major contributors towards the Seychelles economy. There were also massive developments to Port Victoria when the tuna purse seiners operating in the Western Indian Ocean decided to establish their base of operations in Seychelles. This consisted of reclamation projects, new quays, setting up of a tuna-canning factory, etc.
On the artisanal side, fishing vessels have been modernized; are more comfortable and better equipped. Port facilities and services have also considerably improved. Port Victoria is a very efficient artisanal fishing port and another one has been built at Providence, both though Japanese aids. The artisanal and semi industrial fishing boats are using the fishing port at providence. The port is fully equipped with ice making machine and storage capacity for fish and fisher’s gear. The SFA oversees the management of this port and its infrastructures.
There has been in the late 1990’s the development of the semi-industrial longline fishery whose fortunes have fluctuated over the years but which now seems to be on the path of recovery. These longline fishing vessels target tuna and swordfish.
Q2. Do you think co-management and empowerment of the fishing community is the way forward in the artisanal sector and how has value chain analysis benefitted the sector?
Indeed co-management with the artisanal fishing community is the way forward. Fishermen have to actively take part and feed in the decision making process. For this to be possible, they have to be empowered. The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), which is the executive arm of government as far as fisheries activities are concerned has three out of five of its board members from the private sector, one of which is the Chairman of the Fishermen and Boat Owners Association (FBOA). It is not always as easy as it sounds to actively involve fishermen. For example the executive members of the FBOA have to look after their own fishing operations and also the affairs of the Association. We have to build up the capacity of the FBOA so that it is able to participate actively in the various indispensable consultations between Government and the other stakeholders. SFA has also been working in collaboration with other fishermen associations such as Artisanal Shark Fishers Association, the Association of Members of Seychelles Sea-Cucumber Industry, the Praslin Fishers Association and others.
Value chain analysis in the artisanal sector still needs to be thoroughly looked into though there have recently been some successful initiatives by the private sector in value addition. This includes the preparation of dried and smoked fish in attractive packaging for both the local and tourist markets. SFA has been working with the Seychelles Tourism Academy and others on value addition, new product development and improved marketing of the catch. This includes a wide range of fish such as skipjack, mackerels, swordfish and others. It is expected that this will encourage entrepreneurs to develop value added activities in the future and to start new businesses or to expand existing ones. For the tuna industrial sector, value chain analysis has been very helpful to management and decision taking.
Q3. How has the collaboration with EU benefited the fisheries sector in Seychelles?
The contribution of the EU especially under the fisheries sectoral support in the EU-Seychelles Fisheries Partnership Agreement has been invaluable in various areas. This includes strategic infrastructure projects for both the industrial and the artisanal fisheries sectors, research, training, monitoring, control and surveillance, support to fishers associations, etc. The dialogue with the EU has been constructive and mutually beneficial. Seychelles has also benefitted from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Project (RFSP) which is managed by the Indian Ocean Commission and which is financed by the EU.
Q4. What has been the contribution of the fisheries sector with regards to the implementation of the NEPAD-CAADP? What are your priorities?
The NEPAD was helpful in the provision of a grant for the second phase of the Mariculture Master Plan. This helped towards the drafting of marine aquaculture regulations and towards the identifying of Aquaculture Development Zones. We are hopeful in the future financing will be available in various areas, which will contribute towards sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture development in Seychelles.
Q5. Can you give us an insight on future developments in the sector?
We expect in the next few years to develop the mariculture sector, which has a great potential.
Much importance is also being given to the development of the Ile du Port which is expected to become a modern and efficient tuna port. It will not only have quays, bunkering points, net repair areas but also equally have fish processing industries. It is necessary that there is more value addition in Seychelles to the tuna caught by foreign purse seiners instead of having the fish leaving Seychelles in its raw state.
The by-catch from these industrial fishing vessels, which is presently not fully used, will be processed in various products either for export or for local use so as to maximize value addition. This will also create more opportunities for Seychelles investors.
There will be better fisheries management of both demersal and pelagic species as the longer-term sustainability of the fisheries resources is essential to the development of the Blue Economy. Our demersal fish stocks are under pressure from not only the commercial fishermen but also sports and leisure fishermen. It is therefore important to involve all those concerned to work towards the same goal, which is that of a sustainable growth for the sector. It is growth that will not be pursued at the cost of the environment and that will look to maximize the benefits for all sectors of society in the light of social justice.