Type: Large

SeyCCAT Strategic Objective: Empower the fisheries sector with robust science and knowhow to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options

Lead Project Partner: Alphonse Foundation  

Partners: University of Massachusetts Amherst; Carleton University; Bonefish & Tarpon Trust; Seychelles Fishing Authority

Summary: Among fly anglers, St. François Atolls and Alphonse (STF, and AA, respectively) are legendary. Recreational anglers from around the world travel to its remote habitat to target species such as Bonefish (Albula glossodonta), Indo-Pacific Permit (Trachinotus blochii), Milkfish (Chanos chanos), and Giant Trevally (Caranx ignobilis). Pioneering fly-fishing expeditions to AA and STF stated the richness of their waters prior 1999, when the Alphonse Island Lodge became operational. Catch and release (C&R) ecotourism was established early in 2001, but it was not until 2013 when the Alphonse Fishing Company (AFC) took over promising to benefit the fishery through best angling practices, as well as creating livelihood opportunities for people in the region. AFC has exclusive rights to fly-fish the reef flats and the lagoons of these atolls, with fishing effort being controlled through the angling operation and its guides in collaboration with ICS and IDC. Since other ecotourism activities are relatively limited and benign, the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of AA and STF are on the official process of becoming protected areas to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of their terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

Despite C&R fly fishing representing an important income to the economy of the country, it is unknown as to whether C&R recreational angling activities are affecting targeted species and their essential habitats. The ICS has already established long-term monitoring of catch rates for recreationally targeted fish species, as well as established a code-of-conduct to ensure guides and anglers follow conservation guidelines with respect to C&R. Nevertheless, in both cases, very little research has been conducted to scientifically quantify movement patterns and the response of these important fish species to C&R. Recent anecdotes from AFC guides also indicate that the wariness of Giant Trevally (GTs) is changing, and discussions have begun regarding rotating closures of flats to reduce fishing pressure. This presents a rare opportunity to quantify how flats species adjust their spatial ecology and behavior in response to changes in angler pressure – an important step to determining what the carrying capacity of anglers are to specific flats. Addressing such questions will not only inform management decisions on AA and STF, but also act as a model for recreational fisheries throughout the region.

SeyCCAT Funds: SCR 1M

Co-finance: SCR 3.8M

Duration: July 2018 to June 2020

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