Sep 10, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Amid rising operational costs, Guyana’s fisherfolk continue to experience massive reductions in catches and call for further investigations to be conducted to determine the cause.
Ongoing dialogue between the fisherfolk, through the Guyana National Fisherfolk Organisation (GNFO), and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has helped to relieve some of the financial worries of Guyana’s fisher-folks, but calls for more to be done continue to be voiced.
According to Pamashwar Jainarine, Chairman of the GNFO, the MOA has been “very helpful” and responsive to the needs of the fisherfolk by honouring several commitments made to them following the GNFO’s last election, and at the annual Fisherfolk Day celebrations earlier this year. One of the main issues affecting the fisherfolk of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen Cooperative Society, who ordinarily fish in Surinamese waters pertained to the granting of their licences by the relevant authorities.
Following years of disputes and instances where Guyanese fisherfolk have been detained by the Surinamese authorities for fishing in their waters without the correct licences, Mr. Jainarine stated that following the recent visit of Surinamese President, Chan Santokhi, one hundred and fifty licences were granted to the fisherfolk. He expressed his relief and noted that, “we were so overjoyed when we heard the President make the announcement”. The GNFO Chairman also confirmed that MOA has also made good on promises to speak with businesses about the removal of VAT on items, which had been flagged as VAT free for fisherfolk.
But according to Captain Mahesh Parris, the fisherfolk are contending with a number of ongoing issues, which he says need to be addressed. He said that sometimes, “you go out there and spend 15/16 days and you work day and night, sometimes you catch something, sometimes you don’t”. Mr. Parris went on to say that one of the main areas of concern for fisherfolk is cost of fuel; he noted that “the fuel get expensive on us and when the fish isn’t running how it is supposed to, the expense is big on us and then sometimes you go, you’re not getting a good catch, so you can’t afford to pay back what you used to load the boat”.
This is a problem which has been happening more and more, according to other fishermen who spoke with this newspaper during our visit to the Coop.
But according to Mr. Jainarine, more needs to be done in order to manage and regulate the number of vessels allowed to operate in one area at any one time. At the moment, there are no procedures in place to limit or regulate the number of fishing vessels in any one area. The GNFO Chairman stated that, there should “be a limit on the number of vessels allowed to trawl in the area” as it has led to nets getting entangled and fisherfolk being unable to catch anything, which has led to conflict among the Coop’s fisherfolk.
As Mr. Parris explained, “some boats are catching, some boats aren’t catching, not everybody who goes there are catching”.
Fisherfolk contend that without any studies to ascertain the specific reasons for the reduction in catches, there is no way to address the issue. Mr. Jainarine asserted that, “we need more data” to find out “whether it’s the oil”, or “climate change” or “whether there isn’t enough fish in the area”. He also noted that the extensive flooding, which occurred earlier in the year also contributed to the reduction in catch.
When asked, the fisherfolk all responded positively to the idea of fuel subsidies as a means to reduce their operational costs; however, Mr. Jainarine pointed out that it was only the Trawler’s Association that had benefited from this sort of agreement with the government, which had allowed them to purchase fuel from a third party supplier.
But, according to remarks made earlier in the year at Fisherfolk Day celebrations, the President of The Trawlers Association, Mr. Ruben Charles, stated that the fuel subsidy agreement between the Trawlers Association and the government had not been renewed since 2019 and they, too, are also facing issues with low catches and the unavailability of fuel for their vessels.
When contacted, the MOA confirmed that the trawlers are currently off-season and when the season started back again, they would have in place the necessary agreement to facilitate the trawlers fuel needs. Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, also said that if the artisanal fisherfolk were to make a formal request for fuel subsidies through the appropriate channels, it would be taken into consideration.
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