…reiterates calls for meeting with Agriculture Minister
The government is prepared to allow multiple deep sea fishing and trawler licences to Chinese state companies, but the initiative isn’t sitting well with the local fishing industry; especially when they have been asked in recent months to reduce the number of their fishing vessels.
The excuse given is that the government is seeking to conserve depleting fishing grounds. The foreign nationals, according to the government, may be getting permission to fish species which locals are not catching.
It was announced recently that the government was considering at least 40 fishing licences for the Chinese nationals. In an attempt to secure their trade and territory, the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) President, Leslie Ramalho, dispatched a letter for an audience with the Agriculture Minister.
Ramalho had related having knowledge of the potential licenses and thus requested from the Agriculture Ministry a full run down on the stipulations of the licenses and the areas that it covered. While the meeting with the fishing stakeholders was never held, Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy denied the issuance of the license and contended that the cause of the “unnecessary panic” was a “false alarm”.
However, in light of recent developments which allege that a letter of intent has been signed off by the Agriculture Minister, the Fishing Association has reiterated calls for the Fisheries Minister to meet with members of the fishing fraternity.
Ramalho told Kaieteur News that, “the Association would be disappointed if there has or will be any signing off of the letter of intent, especially when the fishing community has not been engaged.” He said they are also prepared to oppose the initiative.
Minister Ramsammy told media persons yesterday that the government plans to grant more than 40 fishing permits to Chinese companies, but the licenses will restrict Chinese boats to species not being fished by local operators. “No announcement soon and no license given as yet. We are just studying species and will not give any license for species presently being fished,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
The Authorities had also denied plans to allow Chinese vessels to operate in waters either in the 12-mile Guyana territorial limit or in the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Dr. Ramsammy however confirmed that talks are ongoing about plans to allow the Chinese vessels to work in local waters despite demanding that the local fleet be maximized at about 100 vessels to avoid over fishing.
GATOSP when questioned said that they, too, “understand that they want to harvest red snapper, trout and other species that we fish for now.” The President is adamant that, “fishing for other species cannot be monitored and enforced out there in the sea.”
The rising contention comes at a time when tensions are rising over the granting of huge contracts to Chinese State-owned companies, which in some cases allow for only Chinese employment. These contracts include that construction of a 197-room Marriott Hotel which sees the employment of only Chinese nationals and the $150M airport runway expansion project at the country’s international airport.
The fishing industry is however, concerned that their businesses could be significantly affected by the potential competition. Stakeholders pointed out with example, that the custom of Chinese vessels in foreign territories is to set up fully loaded operations which entails fishing, cleaning and processing right on the sea top, before export.
They are convinced that such mega set ups spell worries for local operators and especially the successful continuance of locals in the fishing industry.
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