The Government should consult stakeholders on fishing licenses
The Minister for Agriculture has been continually ignoring calls for clarification on issuing two Fishing Licenses for Seabob Fishing, and naming the Licensees.
This issue was first highlighted by Guyana’s Association of Seafood Merchants and Processors (GATOSP), in a letter dated 19 November 2020, to the Minister. It was reported that the said Minister was initiating “an inquiry to determine how the two new dredging licenses were issued” (Stabroek News, 27th November 2020. Seafood processors became alarmed at reporting two new dredging licenses issued by the ministry.) Since then there has been no a report on the status of the investigation.
The GATOSP claimed that the issuance of the two new licenses violated the current licensing agreement it had with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department. The deal had caused a reduction in the trawl fleet from One Hundred (100) to eighty (80) trailers.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) participated when it wrote on 11th December 2020, to the Minister “seeking clarification on the context in which the licenses were issued.” (Papannah, D. 2020. WWF was concerned about new marine fishing licenses – possibly leading to loss of certification, industry collapse, Stabroek News.) Guyana Country Manager for the WWF Guianas, Ms Aiesha Williams expressed “concern over the announcement about the new licenses in a way that could have “deep implications” for the country’s ability to maintain the Maritime Stewardship Council (MSC) certification overseas. ”This suggests that Guyana could lose its MSC certification obtained with the help of the WWF. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) lists Guyana as the largest zebra exporter globally, and Guyana is already under international scrutiny as to how it manages this fishery resource. This zebra industry is only Guyanas certified fisheries sector and needs protection.
Ms Aiesha Williams highlighted in her letter that a recent stock assessment of Guyab’s zebra population revealed that it is fully exploited and is at the point where the population curve is at maximum sustainable yield.
“Any further increase in the fishing effort will lead to overfishing and a potential collapse in the industry, as the movement of individuals (zebras) is equal to the number of recruits (offspring) entering the fishery (deaths = births) ), from a fisheries management context. , ”
He also said that the sector is a closed fishery with 87 licensed marine dredgers from which the current harvest management rule is accounted for. Any change in licensing to increase fishing will “therefore push the Guyana Seabob fishery industry beyond the sustainability limit”.
Unfortunately, it all seems to have been missed or marginalized as it has given approval for both licenses, without any consultation with the GATOSP, which includes the industry experts and ‘ those most affected.
This is not the management style expected of the Ali Government. This type of control is very manual and has a “don’t care” attitude. Gone are the days when Ministers could do whatever they felt with no repercussions. The Guyanese people are no longer docile. When the said Minister refuses to name the licensees when asked to do so in Parliament, he is pointing his nose at the 227,016 people who did not vote for his Party. We would like to know the names of those granted licenses.
The Minister, by refusing to provide the names, opens the door for allegations of corruption, cronyism and nepotism to recur in a PPP Government, the previous two being filled with such accusations.
The Minister said, “Consultation with the trailers owners and seafood processors is less required to issue new licenses.” This is the attitude from which we must insist that our Government (s) move away. No Government should be making decisions that affect an industry, without first consulting the stakeholders of that industry. We are NOT a dictatorship. The Minister is also on record as saying that some of the existing licenses are dormant or inactive. If this is the case, the Minister should revoke those licenses that have not been used or have not been used in the previous 5 years, then issue the new licenses, keeping the number of trailers within the agreed quota for industry sustainability.
My suggestion is that the Fisheries Department management, not the Minister, should get together with the GATOSP and decide if there are any unused, inactive, dormant fishing licenses. Reasons should be given as to why these licenses are in their current state and the possibility that they will become operational in the very near future.
If no valid reasons are given, owners of those licenses should be warned with a timeline, that they may lose their licenses if they do not revive them. The Department of Fisheries can then make recommendations, agreed with the GATOSP, to the Minister who can then issue new licenses if necessary.