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– progress made with Suriname to license Corentyne fishermen
Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha has tasked the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Guyana Fisheries Limited Board (GFLB) with crafting recommendations for the advancement of the Fisheries Sector.
The Fisheries Sector, in Guyana, has evolved into one of the largest income earners for the economy raking in some $16 billion in 2020. However, it is plagued by numerous challenges.
Minister Mustapha said the challenges are not limited to the crisis Guyana has with Venezuela but also the borders shared with other countries including Suriname.
During a meeting with the Fisheries Advisory Committee and the GFLB, he underscored the importance of addressing the issues. In doing so, he alluded to the important role the industry plays in Guyana’s economy.
“We all know the importance of the Fishing Industry in supporting the economy of our country and government has been putting a lot of effort and resources into the sector. It contributes almost 12% to the agriculture GDP, provides employment with over 15,000 persons directly employed in the industry, and is a large income generator, especially in the rural areas across our country,” Minister Mustapha said.
Over the next five years, the Agriculture Minister said, the sector will realise its full potential through the implementation of policies geared at ensuring sustainability of the sector. However, in order to achieve this objective, the Minister said all stakeholders must play their part.
“As the body mandated to help us craft policies, you have to ensure that you craft policies that would be able to help our fisher folk to sustain their income while ensuring the industry continues to make a valuable contribution to Guyana’s GDP. The Fisheries Advisory Committee must also ensure that it carries out its mandate to advice on the management and development of the fisheries sector. We are looking to you to devise plans and programmes to guide government’s vision for the expansion of the fishing industry, aligning it with government’s priorities,” the Agriculture Minister told the Committee.
Further, he underscored the need to boost support for co-op societies within the sector including the National Fisherfolk Organisation.
“We also have to look at the promotion of commercial fisheries, which should include partnerships with investors who already have established markets. It is also important for you to look closely at ensuring that fishermen displaced by activities in the oil and gas sector are compensated, if any,” he added.
Minister Mustapha also took the opportunity to inform the members on the progress made with regards to Guyanese fishing in the Corentyne River.
“We’ve had some very positive feedback from the Surinamese government. We are on the verge of securing licenses for Guyanese fishermen. Two days ago, I received a correspondence from the Surinamese Government and I’m optimistic that this will be the first time in the history of our country that our fishermen might be licensed directly by the Surinamese authorities. So, the problems that we’ve been faced with, where the middle men normally charge large fees for small fishermen to have licenses could be abolished,” Minister Mustapha explained.
Newly appointed Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Committee, Seepaul Narine; and Chairman of the Guyana Fisheries Limited, Mohammed Khan both underscored the need for there to be a collective approach in tackling the issues facing the sector.
Issues in the sector
President of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP), Ruben Charles said that he hopes the Board and the Committee can work together to make representation to have a study conducted on the effects of oil exploration is having on the low level of catches.
“Lots of things have happened and I’m glad that I’m in a position to say something about the future of the industry. Our organisation, the Trawlers Association is experiencing some difficulty now in terms of catch levels and members of that association are, without any scientific guidance, are attributing that to the drilling of oil out there. One of the things we would be seeking is to see how we can mount some investigation to prove whether that is so,” Charles said.
Minister Mustapha assured that factors contributing to low catches will be addressed.