May 25, 2022 News
Kaieteur News –The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) used data that is currently available to conclude that the noticeable decline in fish catch was not as a result of the offshore oil operations. Not only that, but the body said that a rapid assessment was conducted to ascertain the situation.
The FAO on Monday responded to a letter sent by Environmentalist, Simone Mangal-Joly, in which she requested that the report be released to assure the public of the study’s credibility.
FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Julio Berdegue, in his response seen by Kaieteur News told Mangal-Joly that “The technical analysis in question was requested by Guyana to contribute to its understanding of these complex catch issues and support decision-making. It is a rapid assessment of reported issues related to fisheries catch between 2020 and 2021 and is based on available data.”
To qualify the conclusion, Berdegue added that “as a specialized agency of the United Nations, FAO adheres to strong scientific principles, and employs the highest professional standards in analyzing and disseminating available data. We are globally respected for practicing impartiality, transparency and accountability in our work, and we promote neutral fora for national dialogue and evidence-based decision-making.”
He therefore assured that when the report is ready and cleared in its final version, it will be made available through appropriate channels.
Kaieteur News understands that the Environmentalist wrote another letter to the FAO representative, outlining she was specifically concerned about if the FAO conducted a study on the impact of offshore oil and gas activities on the fish stocks and the fisheries sector in Guyana. “You have clarified here that your charge from the Government of Guyana was to conduct an assessment related to fish catch between 2020-2021.This narrow focus and time period, and the fact that you refer to it as a “rapid assessment”, suggests to me that the study could not have been seeking to assess the impact of oil and gas activities on fish stocks and the fisheries sector in Guyana. This clarifies matters,” she reasoned.
Nevertheless, the environmentalist noted that she is still anxious to see the report and supporting datasets as these documents would deliver a better understanding on the factors affecting the fisheries sector.
She said, “As you are aware, the matter of the endangerment and state of our marine resources and fisheries is of great economic, environmental, social, and cultural importance to present and future generations of Guyanese. We await your study with great interest. In the vein of transparency and inclusive governance espoused by the United Nations, and your stated commitment to constructive dialogue, it would be helpful if you would clarify what you mean by “appropriate channels”. Please disclose the formal channel and anticipated timeline for release of the final version of the FAO’s report,” she said in her response to the FAO.
In another letter, sent by the environmentalist to the Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, she pointed out that no less than a “well-studied” approach would be required to reach the conclusion that oil and gas activities did not impact the decline in fish catch as reported by fisherfolk.
For instance, the environmentalist shared that in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ExxonMobil and partners submitted to the Government of Canada for a permit for the Flemish Pass Exploratory Drilling Project and Eastern Newfoundland Offshore Exploratory Drilling Programme in 2019, the oil company understood the assignment of a credible impact assessment. In explaining this point, Mangal-Joly said that Exxon was sure to include precise data that identifies where its operations would occur, relative to ecologically significant areas as well as the fishing grounds used by fisherfolk. Regrettably, the opposite is done for Guyana where the company only identifies the oil block in which it will be operating, she said.
“There is no information in any document submitted by ExxonMobil on the location of sensitive coral reefs, sponges, fish spawning areas, seasons during which commercially and ecologically important species spawn (this would guide management of activities such as seismic gun use at sensitive times of the year), or information on reproduction and life cycle patterns of important fish and other marine species at different heights of the water column and geographically. Nor is there any information in any Environmental Impact Assessment submitted and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency on migratory routes and seasons for key fish and other marine life. Nowhere can one find the locations of fishing grounds relative to the production activities and routes of numerous offshore service vessels. Moreover, ExxonMobil has been producing oil and gas and conducting surveys offshore for some years now. The Government of Guyana has not produced any independent monitoring and verification reports that can give insights on the effects of ExxonMobil’s operations on fish and the fisheries sector,” she said in the letter.
In a brief telephone interview on Friday, the Minister told Kaieteur News that the study has concluded that the visible impacts to the local fisheries sector was merely as a result of climate change. According to him, “It’s not as a result of that (oil operations)…the report says about climate change and the fresh water that was responsible.”
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