If there is a dish that wins all the votes in Reunion, this is the bichic curry. Like the popular lobster curry, bichique curry is one of the most popular dishes on our island. It's kind of our caviar. And the price is felt when "bichique i go up".

Bichique refers to the fry of two closely related species of fish, but distinct : Sicyopterus lagocephalus and Cotylopus acutipinnis two commonly designated species, once an adult, by the vernacular names of "hare-headed pooch" and especially : "Cabot round mouth". They are both from the Gobiidae family found in the tropical coastal waters of Indian Ocean islands (Madagascar, Mayotte, Meeting, Maurice, …), at the mouths of rivers as well as in fresh water. Round-headed Cabot fry is a bichique.

After having laid eggs upstream of rivers, the fish sees its eggs carried by the current to the ocean. Fry (bichiques) only start moving upstream in summer.

In the meeting, this news spreads quickly by word of mouth in the form of bichik the mounted! Since then, the young are eagerly fished thanks to a series of conical traps called "vouves" placed at the mouths of the rivers in the east. A popular dish on the island, the fry is a luxury product whose kilogram can reach 80 euros.

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Risk of overfishing and threat

In 2008, the Fishing Federation considered that for 8 at 10 000 freshwater fishermen in Réunion, 300 around fish for bichiques (actually in brackish water), but alone 800 members are officially registered with the federation, others practicing without a fishing license. 12 guards only are responsible for preflight checks, but they do not have authority in estuaries (area of ​​maritime affairs covered by a nautical brigade of six people and the Indian Ocean Nature Brigade (6 people also), who must monitor a very large territory). The fry fishermen who have a big impact on the resource do not pay the fee established by the water law, on the grounds that the law cites eel, trout and salmon and not the local species of Reunion.

A prefectural decree regulates this fishing. The high price of bichiques (around 50 €/kg) encourages their poaching or overfishing, and like eel, sturgeon or salmon in mainland France, the species is considered to be in sharp decline. It has been considered since July 2010 by the French Committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UICN) almost threatened with extinction. A dish to be consumed in moderation if you do not want it to appear in the dishes of the past.

Photos Pierre Marchal