Apr 22, 2021 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Kaieteur News – The absence of key resources to do proper monitoring of the nation’s sea space as well as to collect data from fishermen has left Guyana unable to tackle the growing challenge of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This troubling reality came to the fore yesterday, on the eve of Earth Day, during a virtual discussion that was led by the US Embassy in Guyana.The participants included Krishnand Jaichand, President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce; Lieutenant Commander, David Shamsudeen, Executive Officer of the Coast Guard; Annette Arjoon-Martins, Environmentalist and Head of the Guyana Marine Conservation Society; Denzil Roberts, Chief Fisheries Officer (CFO) at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department; Veteran Journalist and proprietor of Demerara Waves, Dennis Chabrol; and Pamashwar Jainarine, Chairman of the Upper Corentyne Fisherman’s Co-operative Society.
To open the discussion, the Embassy’s Public Affairs official, Violeta Talandis, invited Arjoon-Martins to share her thoughts on the extent of illegal fishing in Guyana and what attempts have been made from the world of non-governmental organisations to help create a space from which information about this problem can be accessed.
Arjoon-Martins was keen to note that while the government is the ultimate steward of the fishing resources, from her position, as a leader of an NGO, assistance can be provided in several ways. The Environmentalist said she was open to elaborating on this later in the programme, which she did, but the NGO head indicated that the most suitable person to answer that question would be the Chief Fisheries Officer (CFO).
Taking over the discussion from this point on, Roberts said, “When you talk about this matter, it means any fishing that breaks the Fisheries Laws and occurs outside the reach of the law. We have our neighbours to the west and the east and others which would venture into our waters to fish. However, we don’t have evidence as to the volume of illegal fishing in our waters and the problem is the wide expanse of the maritime zone.”
The government official continued, “…It is very difficult and we have the Commander Lieutenant who can explain more but it is very difficult to monitor what is going on out there and we would hear stories… but there is no evidence unless we have a very resource laden Coast Guard because they are responsible for patrolling the oceans…”
Following this, Talandis asked Roberts to speak to the technology that is available to help his department bridge the gap and whether that is also a matter for the nation’s Coast Guard. In this regard, the CFO said that the department makes use of Vessel Monitoring Systems which are used to keep an eye on certain vessels within the industry on a 24/7 basis. He noted however that it is tough for the said systems to be employed with artisanal fishing, which consists of various small-scale, low-capital, fishing households. Further to this, Roberts noted that a vessel was recently acquired to do some research and to ensure vessels are utilising gears as per the nation’s regulations. He said that this would be up and running next month.
During his contributions, Lieutenant Commander, David Shamsudeen, was also keen to note the issues facing the Coast Guard when it comes to monitoring illegal fishing. He shared that Guyana has a coast line of 270 nautical miles and an Exclusive Economic Zone covering 200 nautical miles.
“Altogether, we have a sea space of 54,000 sq nautical miles which is a very large area to cover in terms of patrol and that is one of our challenges and the vessels we are equipped with probably could take us just over our territorial waters and the general areas that the illegal fishing occurs is beyond our territorial waters so one of our main challenges is to have assets that can take us to where those activities are happening,” the Executive Officer stated.
Expounding further, Shamsudeen said that the Coast Guard is only able to monitor vessels within 12 nautical miles of Guyana’s sea space. He said, “We can be able to monitor those and check their documentation but beyond that, it is difficult to get out there…According to our capacity, we can’t go beyond our 12 nautical miles.”
Even though the nation’s Coast Guard is significantly hamstrung by the lack of resources, Shamsudeen was keen to note that the government is working diligently to rectify this state of affairs.
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