Supplies dwindle in Guyana fishing zones
-aquaculture industry tapped to meet seafood demands
by Leonard Gildarie
Supplies in Guyana’s fishing zones are dwindling due to over-harvesting, loss of habitat and pollution, Government warned yesterday.
Not only that, climate change-induced temperature variation is also having a much stronger impact on the distribution of marine fishing, their productivity and yields.
Overtime, authorities were forced to implement seasonal fishing and limit the number of trawlers allowed to operate.
The warnings were issued by Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, yesterday as several aquaculture farmers met in an attempt to move the industry forward.
Included in the gathering were businessmen, Beni Sankar, Desmond Kanhai, Dr. Leslie Chin and several technical fisheries and IDB officials.
During the inaugural meeting of the working group at the Ministry’s office at Bourda, the Minister also tapped the increasing demand for seafood’s due to the health benefits as one of the main reasons that Guyana should pull out the stops to ensure that the aquaculture industry take off…and take off urgently.
“Aquaculture provides excellent opportunities for employment and income generation, particularly in the more economically depressed rural areas. Aquaculture also employs large numbers of people either directly in fish farming activities (as for example, fish pond /fish cage operators, caretakers, construction workers, pump tenders, vehicle/machine operators, harvesting aides) or indirectly as employees in related or ancillary industries ( net manufacturers, fry gatherers, etc.)”
The official also pointed out the diversification is crucial especially in light of the fact that rice and sugar markets in Europe have eroded especially during the last few years.
“Guyana’s proximity to markets, inexpensive labour, the fertility and development of land and an abundance of fresh and brackish water are just a few of the advantages that encourage investment in aquaculture,” he said.
The aquaculture industry in Guyana has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last few years. In 2009, a total of 511 metric tons (mt) valued $343M was produced as compared to 293mt in 2008 valued at $ 224M.
Some 77 mt of brackish water shrimp, valued at $78M was also produced. However, the preference for farmers was tilapia with 343 mt harvested to the tune of $226M.
The majority of the aquaculture species are consumed locally.
According to Persaud, there are five major investors in aquaculture production in Guyana with just over 2000 acres of brackish water cultivation and 200 acres of freshwater aquaculture.
Already to ease farmers’ exposure, the authorities have waived duties and consumption tax on a wide range of aquaculture equipment, processing equipment and aquaculture feed for the industry.
A number of ponds have been constructed for farmers and semi-commercial hatchery commissioned at Mon Repos to conduct researches, to produce quality fingerling and brood stock and to provide training to farmers.
There has also been training for farmers and other agriculture officials over the years and a total of 85,000 fingerlings were produced for 2009 as compared to 20,000 in 2008. By mid-year, the Brazilians are expected to come to Guyana to train farmers and officials on the industry, the Minister disclosed.
Already, pilot projects have been established in Mahaicony for fish farming development.
“The Department of Fisheries introduced aquaculture into the area by starting pilot projects with small farmers by assisting with pond construction, technical expertise, training, and the supply of fingerlings. A total of seven earthen ponds were excavated for four farmers in Mahaicony Creek. As an incentive farmers were given a percentage of their fingerlings free of cost.”
This intervention, Persaud said, was to enable knowledge exchange of a new economic activity in the area and eventually a shift in the farming culture of the people. This project will be used as a model to introduce aquaculture in other areas
Meanwhile, a commercial hatchery was commissioned last October at Maharaj Oil Mill, Cove and John with the construction of eight earthen ponds and one reservoir for the establishment of the hatchery. The hatchery was provided with more than 800 sets of supermales by DFID, Persaud said.
Also making presentations yesterday was international aquaculture consultant, Denis Gasnier, who took the farmers through the farmer steps, warned that cost and quality are huge factors that will have to be taken into account. He also tapped the availability of cheap fish feed.
The aquaculture programme is part of government’s Agricultural Export Diversification Programme (ADP) which intends to develop alternatives to the traditional crops. These include development of the beef and the fruits and vegetables industry. Aquaculture had also been added and under an IDB programme, some 24 farmers will be getting technical and funding assistance to move the industry forward.
The programme will co-finance services required for the actual implementation of selected agri-business plans to cover up to 30 per cent of the project costs with an individual cap of US$120,000 for aquaculture.
It will also undertake to improve its agricultural services provided to the public.
Under this aspect, laboratories and facilities will be upgraded in alignment with internationally acceptable standards, with training for staff and enhanced legislation to monitor the industries.