Mauritius has huge territorial waters, and fishing is one of the country’s most important industries. Fish stocks closest to land have been depleted, and the people of Mauritius are looking for new resources and new fishing techniques. This is where Norwegian expertise comes in. The Centre for Development Cooperation in Fisheries (CDCF) at The Institute of Marine Research has embarked on a three-year project aimed at the fishing industry in Mauritius. Amongst other things, the project is mapping the available fish resources, and developing environmentally friendly, efficient and affordable fishing techniques.
Longline fishing and trawling are problematic
Longline and handline fishing are the most common fishing techniques in Mauritius. “The fisheries are on the large ocean banks one or two days' journey from land,” explains Jens-Otto Krakstad of the CDCF, who is project manager for this Norwegian-Mauritian collaboration. However, longline fishing is problematic: predatory fish feed on the catch, and they land a lot of unwanted species, including shark and other vulnerable species, as bycatch.
Trawling is also far from ideal. Seagrass plains and coral reefs are destroyed by trawling, and this terrain also damage the trawl gear.
Fish pots have many advantages
Jens-Otto Krakstad and Asbjørn Aasen from the fish capture research group have designed a pot that is based on a local, Mauritian design. Krakstad explains why the pot fishery is so suited to the temperate, Mauritian waters:
- The quality of the fish caught in pots is high; the fish are alive, which means they achieve a good price at markets and restaurants. The pots can be used at all depths, and can be left out for a relatively long time without any problems with bycatch or harm being done to the target species. The pots are also protected by steel mesh, which means that predators such as sharks cannot destroy the pots or their contents. The mesh size can be adjusted, making it possible to select the size of the fish caught based on the wishes of the fisherman and regulations imposed by authorities. Fish pots are also cheaper and less labour-intensive than traditional longline fishing.”
Eliminates ghost fishing
Another advantage of these fish pots is that they do not carry on catching fish if they get lost (ghost fishing). Many places, including in Norway, have big problems with fish continuing to be caught in nets and longlines that are lost at sea.
The new pot has a panel which falls out after the pot has been on the sea bottom for a short period, allowing the fish to swim out again. Gradually the pot becomes overgrown, and starts acting as an artificial reef for fish and other marine organisms living on the sea bed. Since the pot is made of iron (steel mesh), it will eventually disappear completely.
The fish pot also meets the criterion of increasing profitability. It is easy to fold up, so it takes less space on deck, allowing fishermen to take more pots with them. Each pot can catch up to 40 kilograms of fish per day.
Local fishermen want to start using the pot, but so far only a few of them have been produced. Krakstad says that in the long term they envisage producing the pots in a low-cost country, to keep the price as low as possible for the fishermen. They hope that it will be possible to start manufacturing them at some point during 2011.
Krakstad believes that the experience gained from this type of pots can be transferred to other tropical countries that are also struggling with ghost fishing, bycatches and inefficient or environmentally destructive fishing methods.
The pot has performed well when tested in Norwegian waters, and Krakstad imagines that it might be possible to develop a smaller version of it designed for leisure fishers and small-scale fishermen.
Aasen and Krakstad’s pot has been entered in the international competition “Smart Fishing Gear 2011”, run by WWF.