St Helena sustainable one-to-one fishery project

St Helena has signed up to a new project to both protect the marine environment around this southern Atlantic oceanic island and boost the value and sustainability of the island's fisheries.  Crick has undertaken a number of pieces of work in recent years to build up the island's fishery industry, and so good to see some of this coming to fruition.

The project has just been launched between the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), the St Helena government, the St Helena Fisheries Corporation and supported by local fishermen, and is attempting to protect the fishery and bolster the returns to this remote island community. The project is being supported by Oceans 5 – an international funders’ collaborative inspired by opportunities that can bring lasting benefits to coastal communities.

This is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the globe, is a British Overseas Territory, and supports a population of 4,000.  In times past it used to be a key port of call for all (British) vessels traveling to and from the East Indies - at its peak welcoming some 900 ocean-going sailing vessels in a year.  At this time the island was under the direct control of the British East India Company.  Today it is served by just the one scheduled sea service - the RMS St Helena - but this will cease operation once a scheduled air service commences (somewhat delayed, but likely to start towards the end of this year).

The project combines establishment of a vast marine conservation zone around the island with a ban on all forms of destructive fishing gear.  Permits will only be issued for tuna to be caught one fish at a time - which essentially limits fishing to the small fleet of fishing vessels operated from the island.  Most of this fleet comprises artisanal vessels of up to 10 metres in length which fish the immediate waters around the island out to a few miles.  A few larger vessels (up to 22 metres in length) are also operated from the island, and these regularly make the voyage out to "nearby" seamounts - between 30 and 180 miles from the island.  All fishing is undertaken using hook and line gear.

The project aims to shield a vast ocean area from harmful fishing activities and provide valuable protection for the local community’s low-impact, socially responsible tuna fishery. 

It will also strengthen the island's small-scale fisheries by enhancing catches, and supporting the value of its tuna exports by promoting the sustainability credentials of this fishery along the supply chain.