Fish catch down 5.3%
Agri Minister says marine production was voluntarily reduced
Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy has admitted that the local fishing sector has seen a decline in production, but this, he said, is deliberate.
Speaking in the National Assembly last Wednesday, Dr Ramsammy acknowledged the disclosure made by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Ronald Bulkan, who had informed the House that fish production was down by 5.3 percent.
The Agriculture Minister who took over the portfolio following last November’s general elections told the National Assembly that it was a deliberate choice to reduce the harvesting of Guyana’s fishing stock.
This revelation was made in spite of claims that piracy and the lack of assistance to fisherfolk have been driving them out of business.
“Our export of marine fish has to be managed because we have to look at the stock and we have to control that,” the agriculture Minister said.
He advised that authorities in neighbouring Suriname have reduced that country’s marine fleet from 70 to 30 vessels.
“I know that Minister Robert Persaud had been working with the owners of trawlers and so on to reduce the number of boats, and we have chosen to do so voluntarily,” Ramsammy declared.
The fisheries sector is of critical importance to Guyana’s economy and its consumption locally has spiraled over the past decade.
It is estimated that per capita annual consumption reached 59.8 kilogrammes in 1998, which is more than four times the world average consumption of 14 kilogrammes per year.
The sector also contributes significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product with export earnings reaching hundreds of millions of United States dollars annually over the past few years.
The industry employs about 4,800 people in harvesting and 5,800 in processing, while many more citizens benefit indirectly from fishing-related occupations, such as boat-building and boat maintenance activities.
The industrial fishery sector consists of 125 trawlers, five fish/shrimp processing plants, and many wharves and dry docking facilities.
The trawlers are 54 percent foreign owned, most of them mainly exploiting prawns with finfish as a by-catch.
Locally owned trawlers mainly exploit a smaller shrimp called seabob, and finfish.
However, figures show that the number of trawlers has fallen by about 20 percent since the early 1980s, reflecting in a decline in the prawn population, and the enforcement of a management decision not to increase the level of the trawling fleet.
In addition to the trawlers, fishing boats which fish at depths of between 120 metres, and at the edge of the continental shelf, target snapper and grouper. It was recognized that there was room for a limited expansion of this fishery in view of its potential sustainable yield, with production oriented toward export and the developing tourist markets.
Small scale or artisanal fishery is not only an important source of food in both rural and urban areas, but it is also increasingly significant as sources of employment, income and foreign exchange.
This type of fishery experienced rapid growth, both in numbers of participants and volume of landings, up to 1992, but since then production has leveled off.
This is probably due to a reduction in the volume of fish resources.
There are about 4,500 small scale fishers. Of these, about 1,000 are boat owners.