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Mauritius Position on Overfishing

Walker Heard

For thousands of years humanity has been dependent on the ocean, it has provided everything from transportation and trade routes, to oxygen and freshwater production, to an abundant source of food. However today our unsustainable practices have begun to put the ocean, especially it’s vital fish population, in extreme jeopardy, at a time when we are no less dependent on the ocean than a thousand years ago.  Major issues threating the ocean today include overfishing, ocean warming, ocean acidification, nitrification, and pollution. Due to the fact that Mauritius is an archipelago nation, it is heavily reliant on the ocean for survival. From the 11,900 workers in the fishing industry, to the even more numerous amounts of workers in the tourism sector, to the millions dependent on the boosts these industries contribute to the economy, these factors make Mauritius extremely sensitive to how the ocean is affected by these issues. One pressing issue to Mauritius is the coral bleaching crisis that is facing the world’s coral reefs, but has especially affected the famous Mauritian reefs, one of the countries major tourist attractions. However, one of the more pressing, and more solvable issues facing Mauritius is the overfishing crisis that exists in its waters.

The overfishing crisis comes from two fronts: 1. from the local fishermen/women, and 2. from foreign fishers. On the local side, a massive boom in population growth and development has led to there being more fishers in the water than can be sustained. These local fishers, which are in most cases, small-time pusedo-sustenance “artisanal” operations with a low catch yield, favor traditional fishing methods, which can involve harmful practices such as smashing the coral to get to their prey. These methods, which in days past were sustainable enough are now being implemented at a much larger scale, due to the sheer numbers, and at a time when the reefs are at the brink of total bleach death. The sheer numbers of the fishermen are also depleting fish populations at a faster rate than can be replaced, which results in fewer, smaller fish. On the other side of the equation is the foreign fishers, who use long sturdy trawl nets, which indiscriminately scrape up all life in its path, and further aid in the depletion of fish populations. Making the situation worse is the common practice of foreign vessels, which largely come from Asia and Europe, skirting licensing laws or evading taxes. These laws are in place for a country to be able to extract a tax from the haul of fishing vessels fishing in its waters, however, many vessels take advantage of the inability of the African countries to properly enforce these laws and either illegally fish in a country’s EEZ or lie on how much they caught to evade high taxes. Foreign vessels have also been caught using illegal fishing techniques such as drift net fishing, a fishing method banned by the UN for the destruction it wreaks on an area’s ecosystem. In order to combat both these overfishing causes I propose to 1: impose large-scale fish closures, which have worked in Mauritius before, to replenish fish populations and sizes. 2: train the local fishermen to use GPS cameras to identify illegal fishing vessels and maybe install a bounty system as a way of incentive for identifying an illegal vessel. 3: pass legislation to reduce the number of trawlers allowed in a country’s EEZ and, 4: appropriate funds from the World Bank to create a force to enforce these measures, and/or recruit conservation groups like Sea Shepard to help enforce these measures.