Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Seychelles' gunboats keep pirates from 'blue gold'

From Jon Jensen, CNN
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The Topaz is a fast-attack craft used by the Seychelles coast guard in the fight against piracy. The Topaz is a fast-attack craft used by the Seychelles coast guard in the fight against piracy.
HIDE CAPTION
Patroling the high seas
Patroling the high seas
Fishing in the Seychelles
Fishing in the Seychelles
The Seychelles' 'blue gold'
The threat of piracy
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Seychelles' fishermen have been targets of Somali pirates
  • Piracy forced authorities to introduce zones that restrict fishermen's movements
  • Attacks have decreased, but restrictions hurt fishing industry

Marketplace Africa is a weekly show covering business trends and focusing on the continent's key industries and corporations.

Seychelles (CNN) -- The pristine waters of the Seychelles, a glittering necklace of coralline and granitic islands scattered on the Indian Ocean, have long beguiled jet-setters and eco-conscious visitors from around the world, turning the idyllic archipelago into a popular travel destination.

But as well as boosting the tiny nation's tourism revenues, the high seas off the east coast of Africa have also helped create another strategic industry: fishing.

A major economic pillar, fishing is the second biggest contributor to the Seychelles' finances after tourism. Over the last two decades, the sector's products have accounted for more than 90% of the country's merchandise exports by value, supplying international markets with items such as canned tuna, also known as the Seychelles' "blue gold."

But in recent years, the fishing industry has come under severe threat as a result of the ongoing risk posed by Somali pirates roaming the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Map: The Seychelles. Click to expand  Map: The Seychelles. Click to expand
Map: The Seychelles. Click to expandMap: The Seychelles. Click to expand

"It's a big problem," explains major Jean Attala, deputy operations officer of the Seychelles coast guard. "Anything that disrupts the tourism or fishing industry or the maritime equilibrium is a very big problem for us," he adds.

Read this: The global cost of piracy

Protecting 'blue gold' from piracy
Tackling piracy in Somalia
Ransom payments creating problems
The cost of piracy

To deal with the threat of piracy, the country's authorities had to change the way they manage their waters in recent years. As part of this increased security drive, the Seychelles coast guard has intensified its patrolling efforts, with fast-attack armed vessels monitoring a newly defined zone for fishing.

But there are just four such vessels in the Seychelles' entire fleet. It's a small nation in terms of landmass, but with its oceans, it is nearly twice the size of France. "This is not adequate to cover such a large area," says Attala. "We need more assets and build up more our capacity to deal with the issue."

Local fishermen are restricted from sailing beyond the designated area's perimeter, several dozen miles outside the main port.

Analysts say that fishing boats are of particular importance to pirates because they can be used as floating bases from which to launch further attacks.

But while the measure seems to be working -- there have been no successful attacks in nearly a year -- the restrictions on the movement of Seychellois fishermen has created another problem.

"There's no fish," explains local fisherman Patrick Pierre. "Every boat is fishing in the same place," he adds.

Pierre, who's been casting his nets for 12 years now, says his job was hardest during the worst period of the piracy -- in 2007 and 2008. Since then, the Seychelles has been at the forefront of the global fight against piracy but the new rules mean fewer fish and less money.

Latest African gold rush: Hotels

Joram Madnack is the general manager of the French-owned Indian Ocean Tuna, one of the world's largest tuna canneries and the biggest employer in the Seychelles. He says fish intake has fallen nearly 25% in the last five years.

"The impact has been on the price, which for some places has gone up by 70%-80% compared to 2007 prices," explains Madnack.

According to a recent report by the World Bank, piracy costs the global economy an estimated $18 billion a year. The increased costs come as shippers are forced to change trading routes, sending fuel bills soaring, as well as pay higher insurance premiums and security bills for guards on board.

But the threat of Somali piracy is also damaging the economies of neighboring countries, particularly in the key sectors of tourism and fishing. Since 2006, the year the World Bank report takes as the starting point of piracy, exports of fish products from piracy-hit countries have declined by 23.8%. In Seychelles, the impact has been even greater, with exports collapsing by nearly 30%.

We could go anywhere we wanted without the fear of piracy.
Patrick Pierre, fisherman

"We now fish where we are allowed to fish," says Peter Sinon, the country's minister of natural resources and industry. "It has made the industry more costly in terms of going out there [and] be secure to bring in what usually was our daily supply of protein," he adds.

Watch video: protecting "blue gold" from pirates

And although many of the pirates have now gone, the fishermen say their industry still hasn't recovered.

For people like Pierre, the fight against piracy and the introduction of fishing zones has proven to be a double-edged sword.

The protection is still necessary, he says, acknowledging that today he is safer. Yet, he and other local fishermen miss the freedom to sail about and return with a big catch.

"Five years ago, there was a lot of fish," says Pierre. "We could go anywhere we wanted without the fear of piracy and everything."

Teo Kermeliotis contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1037 GMT (1837 HKT)
Inside a glove factory on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, busy laborers turn patches of leather into these fashionable garments.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
The Somali capital now has its first-ever ATM bank machine -- and it dispenses U.S. dollars.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Waves lap at the ships as they pull into the Port of Ngqura, but no swell is stopping the local economy booming.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
In Uganda, a group of landmine victims are using banana fiber to create rope, profit and community.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
What does it mean to be Nigerian? That's the question on the lips of many in Nigeria as new national identity cards are being rolled out.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
 General view of an oil offshore platform owned by Total Fina Elf in the surroundings waters of the Angolan coast 15 October 2003. The 11 members of the OPEC oil cartel have agreed to slash output by a million barrels a day, the OPEC president said 11 October 2006, in a move aimed at shoring up sliding world crude prices.
Six of the top 10 global oil and gas discoveries last year were made in Africa -- but can these finds transform the continent?
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1121 GMT (1921 HKT)
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Commuters aboard an overloaded passenger train 03 February 2004, celebrate after arrival at the train station in the centre of the capital Nairobi.
A $5 billion Chinese-funded railway project in Kenya could transform transport in east Africa.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 0027 GMT (0827 HKT)
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
November 27, 2013 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
A new report praises South Africa's economic transformation since apartheid. But enormous challenges remain.
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
zword app zombies
From zombie spelling games to walking snails, Africa's mobile gaming industry is taking off across the continent from Uganda to South Africa.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.
ADVERTISEMENT