Kaieteur News – A woman called in to a recent edition of The Glenn Lall Show which is aired on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays on Kaieteur News. The caller bemoaned her declining fortunes as the owner of fishing boats.
She complained about the present plight of the industry. She claimed that she has already been forced to park two of her vessels.
The working vessel is bankrupting her because the catch cannot compensate for the expenses of sending the vessel out to sea. She is losing money every time the vessel goes fishing.
Her story is being reproduced throughout the fishing industry in many parts of the country. In some cases, fishers have complained that they are catching less than 30 percent of their usual intake. One local representative of the fishing industry was quoted as saying,
This is affecting their livelihoods. The industry is running at a loss and with each day, the situation is getting worse.
It is therefore not surprising to learn that fish production declined by a massive 17.1 percent in 2020 and shrimp production by almost 15 percent. The export earnings from fish was also reduced by US$25M, far more than was earned from the sugar industry.
We are told that this year production is down by more than 20 percent.
To add to the woes of fishers, operating costs are rising. Both the price of fuel and fishing equipment have been said to have skyrocketed.
The future looks bleak for the local fishing industry. And this is dread news for the economy. A senior government official agrees that the fishing industry is collapsing.
The consequences will be terrible. Thousands of Guyanese rely on fishing for their livelihood and fish is a vital part of the local diet.
Jobs, incomes and food are threatened by the decline in the fishing industry and particularly by the poor catches by fishers. A number of fish processing plants which employ thousands of persons, especially women, could face closure unless the situation is arrested.
Guyana is likely to soon become a net importer of fish. This would be a crying shame.
Glenn Lall believes that the problems in the fishing industry are no accident. He believes that there is a link between the plight of our fishers and the start-up of oil production. In fact, the problems of fishers have worsened since seismic surveys and drilling for oil commenced.
He believes that it is the nerve-wrecking noises from the seismic surveys and the dumping of water from the oil production process which are responsible for chasing away fishing stocks from our waters.
Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) however disputes this. Al Jazeera recently quoted a senior EPA official as saying that the causes for the decline in fishing catches were climate change and pollution, but that there was no link established between the decline in the fortunes of the industry and the oil and gas operations.
The fishers however, are not all buying that. Some of them are adamant that the oil industry is destroying the country’s fishing industry.
And to think that royalties have been fixed at a paltry two percent. All the royalties which will be derived from the oil industry will be insufficient to compensate Guyana for the losses to the fishing industry. It is yet another example of how instead of gaining from oil, the people of Guyana are losing.
A much bigger Field Development Plan is coming. The fear is that Yellowtail will administer the final rites to the country’s fishing industry.
Yet, as was reported in another section of the media, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Yellowtail contains “no comprehensive mapping of the fish nurseries, in Guyana or in neighbouring countries that might be feeding our fishery sector. There are no indications whatsoever in any baseline study done, including the marine baseline study done, of what the migratory patterns are of commercial or non-commercial fish compared in that whole zone of mud that extends all the way from Northern Brazil.”
The government does not seem to have any answers to give to fisher folk. And the frustration is growing as exemplified by the female caller to The Glenn Lall Show who lamented her inability to take care of her family.
Since the government does not accept the link between the oil exploration and production and low fishing catches, it should be redisposed towards proving itself right. It should commission an independent study to determine the proximate causes of the decline in fishing catches by local fisher folk.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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