SeyCCAT Strategic Objective: Empower the fisheries sector with robust science and knowhow to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options
Lead Project Partner: Marine Conservation Society Seychelles
Partners: University of Seychelles, Blue Economy Research Institute, Anse Forbans Community Conservation Programme, Seychelles Fishing Authority
Summary: Spiny lobsters are an important source of income for local fishers in Seychelles, however, declines in abundance prevent consistency in the operation of the commercial fishery. In recent years, many of the fringing reefs in Seychelles, have become dominated by fleshy macro algae and no longer support the same numbers of common and commercially important reef inhabitants, such as lobsters and octopus. The bleaching events and subsequent collapse of coral reefs have triggered this paradigm shift and reduced the availability of potential habitat to these species.
Supplementation of degraded reefs with artificial habitats has been shown to provide valuable increases in spiny lobster numbers but for this to be a real increase in population, rather than an aggregation of existing stock, the level of recruitment and availability of lobster post-larval phases and juveniles has to be assessed and if necessary managed. Similarly, a clearer knowledge of the juvenile to adult lifecycle habitat requirements is necessary as lobsters undergo multiple moults during which they need security from predators.
Anse Royale and Anse Forbans are both fringing reef structures along the South East Coast of Mahe; over the years there have been marked changes at these sites, in both coral reef and other benthic habitats, most notably sea-grasses. Bel Ombre is on the North West coast and has been surveyed for lobsters by the SFA monitoring programme and would be used as a reference site to assess the effects of artificial habitats on wild lobster population.
SeyCCAT Funds: SCR 950,290
Co-finance: SCR 959,178
Duration: June 2018 to May 2019
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Larval assessment Laboratory protocol
A large amount of zooplankton were captured and the lack of knowledge at national level in zooplankton analysis and identification lead us to create a laboratory protocol and a literature database (available) to describe the samples and count the numbers of lobster phyllosoma and puerulus larvae caught. This protocol and database were used during the training sessions with the Seychelles Fishing Authority and the University of Seychelles.
- Training session for 11 students and 8 SFA staff
- Presentations to 102 students from P5 and P6 of Takamaka School and Anse Royale School
Spiny lobsters have a complex mero-planktonic lifecycle from a larva living in the open sea to an adult living on the sea floor. The management of the fishery requires a good understanding on all the stages of the spiny lobster life cycle. In this context, the objective of this paper is to provide a short review of the spiny lobster (Panulirus sp.) life cycle and the ecological and fisheries management implications.
This project has identified gaps that will guide further studies to ensure that any follow-on work done by researchers will build on this and can also update educational materials to highlight these issues.
- The level of lobster larvae in the coastal ecosystem needs to be confirmed by an alternate monitoring methodology (such as by plankton tows) to confirm if results from the settlement monitoring (light traps and micro habitats) is accurate. The project’s capture of only 2 puerulus and no phyllosoma despite 11 months of monitoring is potentially indicative of very low levels of recruitment and settlement which can only be resolved by long term monitoring.
- The knowledge on the factors influencing the recruitment of spiny lobster populations in Seychelles needs to be defined:
o The local and national ocean current patterns need to be established over the course of the seasons and the localised retention and dispersion in coastal areas established to help define the most likely areas for larval arrival and settlement.
o The impact of climate change on the species, their larva, regional connectivity and prevailing oceanographic conditions needs to be established.
o Potential barriers to settlement and local threats to puerulus need to be established.
The project helps a sustainable future by providing new data on the spiny lobster population’s ecology. Although the project was not able to provide all the responses we had hoped, it has allowed us to refine future research directions and questions that need to be address by private industries and the government to attain a sustainable fishery.