Jul 02, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – Fishermen were happy to hear that the government was providing them with a one-off relief cash grant of $150,000 to ease the economic strain, but it would appear that some persons are taking advantage of the system.
Fishermen say that what is happening now is that a large number of persons are registering as fishermen to access the cash grant, but they cannot be expressly verified, since they originate from unregistered landing sites with no record of its operations or operators. They say that because a clear criterion was not set for those who can receive the grant, some amount of controversy exist as to whether fishermen operating in the back-dam and persons who recently left the trade because of the unfavourable environment were also eligible for the grant.
Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha had said that all marine fishermen across the country who earn a living at sea will benefit from the $150,000. He said that these persons did not have to be licenced fishermen to get the grant. “And that is the problem,” one fisherman told this publication. “A lot of fishermen on a whole are not licenced and like how we got our official (fisherman) co-op, these landing sites are not registered.”
The men explained that if there are 20 boats landing at the site with 80 persons operating there, the number “all of a sudden” inflated to close to 200. In Region Six for example, there are registered sites in Albion and Corentyne, but there are even more unregistered landing sites in Eversham, Number 79 village Canje, Crabwood Creek and several other areas.
Unregistered landing sites exist around the country, the fishermen said, and the large number of persons registered now seems to have surpassed what was expected by the authorities. “There seems to be a bit of confusion and we don’t know what will happen there.”
Outside of this, it was explained too that the grant is for active fishermen, those working now. But there are persons who would have recently left or paused the work a short time ago because of the state of the industry. The fishermen believe that those persons should also access the cash grant because the low catch, high cost of fuel and other issues would have caused those persons to seek employment elsewhere. Additionally, there are fishermen in the back-dam, catching “hassar” and other local fish that are coming to say they are fishermen. Indeed these persons are involved in fishing, but whether they were eligible for the grant, they could not say.
Another way the system is being cheated, according to reports, is that persons are allegedly paying fisheries officials for their names to go on the list, while some boat owners who work on their own vessels are putting the boat in a family member’s name and collecting two sums of money; one as boat owner and one as worker. The men said that they also remembered President Irfaan Ali announcing an estimated 5,000 fishermen in Guyana. Even without the bloated numbers currently surfacing for the cash grant, the fishermen said that the President’s number is grossly understated.
Given the many issues currently faced by the local fishing sector, the cash relief is much appreciated, the coop members said. They noted however that the system must ensure that legitimate fishermen receive the pay out, and that persons who depended on fishing for a living, but were forced out, are also supported. They reiterated that low catches within the industry, high cost of fuel and other issues such as the promised Surinamese fish licence, affected operators’ ability to stay within the trade.
Minister Mustapha wasn’t immediately available for an update on the payout process yesterday, but he did say previously that the Fisheries Department was instructed to develop two lists; one with licenced fishermen and the other with unlicenced fishermen to be posted at landing sites countrywide to be verified by the public and to prevent persons from registering at more than one location.
“We have fishermen who are licenced and we have those who are not licenced. After examining our register, just about 50 percent of our fishermen are licenced,” the minister had said. “I want to make it very clear; I’ve given clear instructions to our Fisheries Department that we’ll develop two lists. One will have the licenced fishermen and the other the unlicenced fishermen. We have a number of landing sites in our country where fishermen land their catch. Since the President made the announcement, we’ve been working to form committees comprising fishermen to ensure every fisherman is registered. These committees will be charged with compiling and verifying those lists after which every list will be posted at the landing sites so that the names can be verified by the public.”
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