On 15 August 2016, octopus fishing was officially closed in Mauritius till 15 October 2016. In 2015, octopus fishing was closed from 10 August till 10 October from Le Morne to Souillac in the south of Mauritius on a pilot project to trial this programme which is already in place in Rodrigues since 2012.
The 2016 closure is the first one at national level in Mauritius, including Agaléga.
The main reason behind this measure is the drastic decline in volume of octopus fished every year, from 200 tons in 1990 to 30 tons currently. Octopus is considered a delicacy in Mauritius; it is commonly referred to as ourite, the French names being either pieuvre or poulpe. During the current closure, frozen octopus from Madagascar and Rodrigues will still be available on the market.
The objective of this fishing closure and its timing is to allow female octopuses to lay their eggs and to allow existing specimens to grow up in size. Bigger octopuses are hence expected in October.
Rodrigues is planning a second closure per year in February 2017 when young octopuses come back to populate lagoons.
The 2015 closure in the south was on a voluntary basis while the 2016 one is an official closure with legal bearing. The National Coast Guard and the Environment Police will be on the lookout to enforce the closure. Contraveners will be subject to a fine not exceeding Rs 50,000.
The Ministry of Fisheries set up this programme with the support of the Indian Ocean Commission (Commission de l'Océan Indien, COI), the GEF Small Grants Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and of several NGOs: Eco Sud and its Lagon Bleu project, Eco Mode, Reef Conservation, and the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS).
This Special Commemorative Cover was postmarked on 16 August 2016, 15 July being a public holiday for the Assumption of Virgin Mary, at Pointe aux Sables Post Office. Pointe aux Sables is a small fishing village on the southwestern outskirts of Port Louis.
The stamp used is the Rs 14 Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) stamp from the omnibus issue with the islands of the Indian Ocean and France of 9 October 2014. The Green Turtle symbolises the fragile resources that surround Mauritius and its dependencies. It used to be hunted too like the octopus, until its population reached such a critical number that its hunting was prohibited.
N.B.: This is a private issue, not linked in any way to the Mauritius Post, the Ministry of Fisheries, the COI, the UNDP, Eco Sud, Eco Mode, Reef Conservation or the MMCS.
Some links to articles in French about the current closure and octopus fishing closure in general:
Fermeture de la pêche aux ourites: Maurice sur les pas de Rodrigues (L'express, 11.08.2015) http://www.lexpress.mu/article/267069/fermeture-peche-aux-ourites-maurice-sur-traces-rodrigues
Pêche à l'ourite: deux fermetures prévues cette saison (L'express, 8 July 2016) http://www.lexpress.mu/article/285053/peche-lourite-deux-fermetures-prevues-cette-saison
Fermeture de la pêche à l'ourite: les pêcheurs déplorent le manque d'accompagnement (Scope Magazine, 28 July 2016) http://www.lemauricien.com/article/fermeture-la-peche-l-ourite-les-pecheurs-deplorent-manque-d-accompagnement
Environnement: fermeture de la pêche à l'ourite (Le Mauricien, 13 August 2016) http://www.lemauricien.com/article/environnement-fermeture-la-peche-l-ourite
Video by the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation on the 2016 closure, 16 August 2016: http://mbc.intnet.mu/article/fermeture-de-la-p%C3%AAche-lourite-video