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29.06.

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PRIVATE NOTICE QUESTION

To ask the Honourable Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine


Resources, Fisheries and Shipping -

Whether, in regard to the in-lagoon and open sea marine


fish farms, he will-

(a) state if he has been made aware of an increased


presence of sharks and of other predators in the
vicinity thereof;

(b) state the measures taken by his Ministry to closely


monitor the effects thereof on the environment and
on the marine ecosystem; and

(c) give details on the large scale projects thereof


approved as at to date?

Madam Speaker,

In line with Government’s Vision 2030, one of the key activities


relating to the development of the Ocean Economy concerns the
expansion of the aquaculture sector,.

Development of aquaculture activities is a sine qua non for food


security and availability of animal protein to ensure livelihood. According
to reports from international organizations such as the Food and
Agriculture Organization, catches from the capture fisheries is stagnating
worldwide. The FAO report on “The State of World Fisheries and
Aquaculture” published in 2016, reveals that world per capita fish supply
reached a record high in 2014, thanks to vigorous growth in aquaculture
which now provides half of all fish for human consumption.
As regards Mauritius, our local production from the lagoon, has
been declining over the past years from about 900 tons in 2011 to 560
tons in 2017. Our local demand for fish is around 26,000 tons.

To meet the market demand, we have to resort to import of fish


products. However, this measure is temporary until such time that local
production is able to satisfy the market demand.

In this context, aquaculture is a privileged vehicle towards attaining


the level of self-subsistence. In fact, my Ministry is promoting the
development of aquaculture to increase fish production and create
employment.

In accordance with the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act 2007


(Amendment of Schedule Regulations 2015), 20 sites have been
prescribed for the development of large scale aquaculture activities. In
addition, 10 sites have been identified for small scale aquaculture
projects at:

(i) Grand Gaube (2 sites);


(ii) Poudre d’Or (2 sites);
(iii) Quatre Soeurs (2 sites);
(iv) Bambous Virieux (2 sites); and
(v) Grand Riviere Sud Est (2 sites).

where floating cage structures have been installed by my Ministry


at a cost of around Rs 11 million and allocated to ten Fishermen
Cooperative Societies since last year.
Moreover, the Ministry of Housing and Lands has vested six
barachois in my Ministry as from 2014 onwards in the following regions:

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(i) Petit Barachois at Poudre D’Or ;
(ii) Grand Barachois at Poudre D’Or;
(iii) Barachois Trou Cango at Poudre D’Or ;
(iv) Barachois Butte à L’Herbe at Calodyne ;
(v) Barachois Mahebourg, at Cité La Chaux ; and
(vi) Barachois Fountain Bay, at Pointe des Lascars

These barachois have been allocated for aquaculture projects to


six companies.

The first large scale aquaculture project in the lagoon started in


2002 by the Ferme Marine de Mahebourg which is a local company.
This company has been allocated 8 sites and its production which was
initially around 300 tons, has now reached 1200 tons and it is targeting
fish production of 5,000 tons annually.

Madam Speaker,

With regard to part (a) of the Question, I wish to inform the House
that lately, there has been an outcry in the press and from certain sea
users, including AHRIM, regarding the alleged presence of sharks in the
vicinity of the fish farms. In response to the public outcry, surveys and
monitoring exercises have been carried out at the different sites by a
technical team of my Ministry. These did not reveal the presence of
sharks in the vicinity of the floating cages installed for aquaculture
activities. In the course of their survey, officers of my Ministry also
gathered information from La Ferme Marine de Mahebourg, which has
confirmed that so far, no shark attack has been reported on their floating
cages situated at Vieux Grand Port Channel. In fact, on 29 May 2018,
my Ministry received a report from the company informing us that on 25
May, the net of one of the floating cages located at Pointe aux Feuilles

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had been cut at three distinct places, leading to escape of fish. Each cut
was of one metre in length and was a straight one with no sign of
tugging, which is a clear indication of human intervention rather than
damage or attack by marine predators. The case has been reported by
the company to the Police.

Madam Speaker,

Notwithstanding the absence of evidence of presence of sharks


and other predators, the then Board of Investment commissioned a
study last year, the focus of which was the review of existing information
on the effects of aquaculture activities on the occurrence, residency,
behaviour and abundance of sharks in the region. The study also
encompassed the potential impact that the development of aquaculture
may have on changing status of sharks in Mauritius. The study, which
was undertaken by Dr Jeremy Kiszka, a researcher from Florida
International university, whose expertise is in the field of ecology and
behavior of large marine vertebrates, has, inter alia, concluded that:

(i) there is no empirical evidence worldwide, that fish farming


activities have led to an increased occurrence of shark bites
on humans; and
(ii) aquaculture does not impact on the proliferation of sharks
and as such future development within this sector should not
be deferred

Madam Speaker,

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Regarding part (b) of the Question, my Ministry carries out regular
monitoring exercises and ecological surveys around the ten floating
cages in the lagoon, as well as at the sites allocated to Ferme Marine de
Mahebourg. The results of the analyses of the physico chemical and
microbiological parameters, are within the limits of the Coastal Water
Quality Guidelines for Class Aquaculture. The results are communicated
to the Environmental Monitoring Committee of the Ministry of
Environment. Furthermore, as one of the conditions of its EIA licence,
Ferme Marine de Maheboug has an obligation to carry out quarterly
water quality analyses and submit results to my Ministry. So far, no
abnormality has been observed.

However, I should inform the House that in the course of their


monitoring exercises especially in the regions of Roches Noires, Pointe
des Lascars, Poudre d’Or and Grand Gaube, my officers noticed that
gears and baits had been installed in the lagoon. This practice might
have been resorted to by fishermen with a view to attracting sharks. In
order to address this issue, my Ministry is coming up with sensitization
activities on the dangers of placing gears and baits to attract sharks.

In addition, a research study carried out by the University of


Mauritius in collaboration with my Ministry has revealed that the floating
feed used by the farm is eaten away by marine organisms. Moreover,
the studies have also shown that fish farming does not affect our corals
and in fact helps the growth of corals near the cages and sometimes on
them. It has also been noted that coral regeneration has been observed
in the region.
Madam Speaker,

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As for part (c) of the Question, four large-scale projects have been
approved as follows:

(i) Ferme Marine de Mahebourg allocated eight sites in the


lagoon at Pointe aux Feuilles for the culture of Red Drum
and Bar fish since 2002;

(ii) Grow Fish International allocated two sites off lagoon at


distance of 1.2 km from the shore at Bambous at a depth of
about 400 metres, in 2015, for the culture of Cobia fish. This
company has not started its activities in view of an appeal
lodged by AHRIM and Sea Users Associations against the
grant of an EIA licence for this project. The case is sub-
judice;

(iii) Mascareignas Oysters Co. Ltd allocated one site in the


lagoon at Bois des Amourettes in 2017 for oyster culture; and

(iv) Abagold Mauritius Ltd. allocated four sites in the lagoon at


Bois des Amourettes for the culture of Red Drum Fish in
January 2018. The company is awaiting its EIA and other
clearances to start its activities.

Madam Speaker,

I take this opportunity to reassure the House that the conservation


and protection of the marine ecosystem and biodiversity stand high on
the agenda of my Ministry. In our endeavour to increase fish production,
we are guided by best practices and recommendations made by

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international organizations which militate for the sustainable
development of our marine resources.

I, therefore, wish to reiterate that the policies adopted in the ocean


economy sector have as prime objective sustainable development which
is centrally supported by responsible exploitation of the ocean for the
benefit of the present and future generations. Any valid proposal would
certainly be welcomed.

I should also mention that the development of ocean economy will


never be to the detriment of other economic pillars. Government will act
in such a way so as to ensure food security and the livelihood of the
fishermen community.