It is happening to the timber industry and now in the fishing arena.
In a rapidly-changing business environment, local players have to comply with standards and strict monitoring to ensure sustainability, and that their products are not coming via illegal means.
Guyana, in recent years, has been moving to join the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU- FLEGT) arrangement – to stamp out illegal logging and reducing the possibilities of any products from such activities ending up in overseas commercial markets.
Failure to snag an agreement could impact on Guyana’s timber market.
These past few weeks, similar moves have been started in earnest to ensure that Guyana comply in the fisheries department. The implications are clear. Unless Guyana becomes certified, which in effect says that the sector is being managed in a sustainable and environmental acceptable manner, it could lose its US and European market.
On Thursday, the Georgetown-based Guyana Association of Trawlers Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP), which represents major players in the fishing sector, made it clear that it will be ramping up efforts in the coming months to have the seabob fishery enter into an assessment of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
MSC is the international environmental standard for well-managed fisheries, which is the internationally recognised “gold standard” for sustainable seafood, GATOSP disclosed yesterday in a full-page advertisement in Kaieteur News.
“If all the necessary criteria are met, this will be an important milestone in an often challenging journey towards matching international best practices in fisheries, and comes a little over a year since the Suriname seabob fishery achieved re-certification to this standard.”
The stakeholders, including trawler owners and fisheries, are aiming for a February 2018 deadline to meet all requirements and submit an application for certification.
For much of last week, GATOSP said it hosted a delegation of the main US buyers, processors and distributors of Guyanese seabob.
“They represent long-standing friends of the Guyana seabob industry, value the quality and taste of the Guyanese product and the professionalism used in its catching, handling, packing and exporting of this product,” the association explained.
It was explained that consumers overseas do not just want to know that the products they are buying taste great and are top quality, they also want to know that they are harvested responsibly and in a way that does not adversely affect the marine environment, and in quantities that do not deplete the stock of this small coastal shrimp.
The fisheries have the responsibility of ensuring this.
“The buyer group’s customers — North American retail and food service chains — now expect their suppliers to demonstrate the exemplary pedigree of their product by ensuring that it is MSC-compliant.”
The Atlantic seabob shrimp is by far and away Guyana’s pre-eminent seafood export, with exports to the US and European Union valued in excess of US$60M per year.
“The seabob sector employs thousands between fishermen, shore side staff, and processing plant workers. And, in order to maintain and increase the value and economic contribution of this sector it is now imperative that the seabob industry shows that it is achieving good stewardship.”
To make it happen, GATOSP members have been working in partnership with the Fisheries Department, the World Wildlife Fund and local and international marine researchers to strengthen the sustainable management of its seabob fisheries.
“Immediate priorities are the signing off of key management documents—the Fishery Management Plan, the Seabob Fishery Management Plan, and the Seabob Captains’ Code of Conduct, along with the revised Fisheries Regulations. All of these items must be ratified by the government to meet the conditions necessary to apply for MSC assessment in February 2018,” the association revealed.
The various parties are also wrapping up a number of research threads examining the impact of seabob fishing on the marine environment.
“Getting the international recognition for the high standards being applied in the management of this fishery — by government and the industry — is not just a feather in the cap for all.
It fully supports and complies with Guyana’s ambitions to build a “green economy”. With the certification, Guyana ensures that its seabob product will be at the top of US and European buyers’ lists; without which, Guyana will need to find new buyers for its product in different markets and at substantially lower price points,” the advertisement said.
The objective of last week’s meetings between the buyers, industry and Fisheries Department, has been to get an update on the progress.
The forum was also to impress the seriousness and urgency of ensuring a smooth passage towards successful assessment.
GATOSP is targeting the end of 2019 for MSC certification, which is not an easy task.
The fishing industry is anticipated to record a 1 percent growth for 2017, down from 18.1 percent in 2016, Finance Ministry Winston Jordan reported in his recent budget presentation.
The industry has reported lower catches of fish, partly as a result of stronger enforcement of cross-border fishing regulations.
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