The GUYANA fisheries industry, over the next five years, will realize its full potential as the Government continues to direct its efforts towards policy making aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the sector. Over the years, fisheries in Guyana have evolved into one of the largest income earners in the economy, accumulating some $ 16B in 2020.
As part of the Government’s efforts to further develop the industry, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha met with members of the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Guyana Fisheries Restricted Board (GFLB).
During the meeting, Minister Mustapha accused the new bodies of examining issues faced in the sector and providing recommendations to move the sector forward.
“With these times we are facing many challenges in the fishing industry, not only with the crisis we have with Guyana and Venezuela, but as a country sharing borders with many other countries. Particularly with Suriname and Venezuela, we must ensure that we look at issues facing people in the industry and provide recommendations to move the sector forward. We all know how important the fishing industry is in supporting our country’s economy and the Government has been putting a lot of effort and resources into the sector. It contributes nearly 12 percent to the agricultural GDP [Gross Domestic Product], provides employment with over 15,000 people directly employed in the industry, and generates large incomes, especially in the rural areas across our country, ”said Minister Mustapha.
Minister Mustapha also said it was important to ensure that all control measures were used to ensure the sustainability of the industry. He also outlined some of the Government’s expectations for the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee.
“As the body mandated to help us shape craft policies, you must ensure that you craft policies that could help our fisheries maintain their income while ensuring that the industry continues to make a valuable contribution to Guyana Gross Domestic Product. The Fisheries Advisory Committee must also ensure that it fulfills its mandate to advise on the management and development of the fisheries sector. We look to you to devise plans and programs to drive the Government’s vision for the expansion of the fishing industry, aligning it with Government priorities. We were elected on the basis of the measures set out in the manifesto and we must ensure that those measures become policies. One of those measures is to improve support for fishermen and coop societies, and you know that we are now looking to resuscitate the National Fisheries Institute. We must also look at promoting commercial fisheries, which should include partnerships with investors who have already 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 at all, ”said Minister Mustapha. Minister Mustapha also took the opportunity to inform members of the progress made in Guyanese fishing in the Corentyne River.
“We have received very positive feedback from the Surinamese Government. We are about to secure licenses for Guyanese fishermen. Two days ago I received correspondence from the Surinamese Government and I am hopeful that this will be the first time in our country’s history that our fishermen could be licensed directly by the Surinamese authorities. So the problems we have faced, where the middle men usually charge large anglers fees to get licenses could be revoked, ”said Minister Mustapha.
The new Chair of the Fisheries Advisory Committee, Seepaul Narine, said that members of the bodies should work to ensure that they use their efforts to promote the sector.
“The size of this industry cannot be underestimated if we’re talking about 15,000 people, and, due to the closure of two plants, we’re still talking large numbers of the population when you consider the employed and their dependent families them. I wish we, during our tenure, worked hard, put our efforts together and used the expertise around this table, ”said Narine.
In addition, the newly elected Chairman of the Guyana Fisheries Limited, Mohammed Khan, said he hoped the committees can work together to stabilize the sector again.
“As the minister said, we really make a tremendous contribution to this country. The latest figure I have is between 15,000 to 17,000 people working in fisheries. It’s down a little now because of two plants that recently closed. I hope that with the new committees we will work together to bring the fisheries industry back to a stable position, ”said Khan.
ISSUES IN THE SECTOR
President of the Seafood Merchants and Processors Association (GATOSP) President Ruben Charles said he hopes the board and committee can work and make representation to conduct a study to determine the effects of oil exploration at the catchment level.
“A lot of things have happened and I’m glad I’m in a position to say something about the future of the industry. Our organization, the Traders’ Association, is now experiencing some difficulty in holding levels and members of that society, without any scientific guidance, attribute that to oil drilling out there. One of the things we would look for is to see how we can carry out some investigation to prove if that is the case, ”said Charles.
Minister Mustapha said issues were being addressed as contributing factors to low custody. He added that the board and the committee have the full support of the ministry to make representation for studies to be conducted to determine whether oil exploration activities are indeed affecting the sector.