Seychelles and Mauritius have signed an agreement to efficiently use the Seychelles Coastguard and its Mauritian counterpart to monitor the Joint Management Area (JMA) of the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean.
The agreement was signed on Monday by Premode Neerunjun, cabinet secretary and head of the Mauritian civil service, who is the new co-chair of the JMA joint commission on the Mauritian side and Seychelles' co-chair Ambassador Kenneth Racombo.
Chrissant Barbe, Seychelles focal point for the JMA, told the press on Wednesday that "the agreement is a milestone as we have agreed on how to move forward with surveillance and monitoring of the area."
The agreement comes as both countries "are particularly vulnerable to illicit activities being undertaken by third parties in our own backyards," said Neerunjun.
"The benefits this brings to Seychelles is that the resources that are affected by various pressures and illegal activities will be better monitored as this will serve as a deterrent to those who carry out the illegal activities," Barbe explained.
He added that the agreement will also help in the creation of employment in the region.
Prior to signing the agreement, international and regional organisations were monitoring the area.
"This approach has not been very effective where monitoring the JMA is concerned as it was not specifically tailored for the job," said Barbe.
He added that with the agreement in place, the authorities will have an approach to do just that.
The technical committee and joint commission of JMA are meeting in Seychelles this week to discuss the various aspects of managing the joint area.
Racombo advised those attending the meeting that both parties need to "be strategic in their efforts in order to effectively attain their core objectives."
The Joint Management Area is the mechanism of joint jurisdiction between Seychelles and Mauritius over an area of the seabed and its underlying subsoil in the Mascarene Plateau Region. It excludes the water and living organisms above the shelf.
A treaty was signed in 2012 and the two island nations secured rights to additional seabed covering over 400,000 square kilometres in the Indian Ocean.
Earlier in February, both governments launched tenders for sea cucumber fishers in their respective countries to submit their proposals for explorative harvesting of the species in the area.
Three sea cucumber fishers in Seychelles will begin fishing for the species in the JMA soon, according to another agreement between the two countries, while only one contractor from Mauritius has shown an interest.
"Our fisheries sector is not on as big a scale as that of Seychelles. We are looking at the possibilities of having joint ventures in the future, so as to get more contractors in Mauritius taking part," said Jagdish Koonjul, the permanent representative of Mauritius to the UN.
The discussions on the Mascarene Plateau started in 2002. Mauritius and Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, have met several times a year for joint management discussions since then.
Source: Seychelles News Agency