Jul 10, 2022 News
…as dredging to facilitate shore base crosses traditional fishing grounds
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Fishers operating within the sea area defined for dredging to facilitate the US$600M Vreed-en-Hoop shore base are concerned that more harm will be done to an already ailing fishing industry now that activities to facilitate the project are expected to cross traditional fishing grounds.
Operators at the Meadow Bank wharf told this publication that as far as they know, there has been no follow-up meeting since an outreach in April was held by Trinidadian firm, Coastal Dynamics Limited (CDL), which was gathering information for the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
At that outreach, the agents had asked fishermen in attendance to pinpoint on a map provided where they operated to ascertain how they would be affected by the dredging activities. The fishermen had asked the company, however, to return with its coordinates so that they could understand exactly where the work would be taking place. Since then, there had been no more information on the matter, said a prominent boat operator who requested anonymity. He said further, that survey work was conducted by agents who had ventured out with small boats to assess the area.
The fisherman told this newspaper that while he is not affected because his larger boats use the channel, he is still concerned that the activities would further affect the dwindling catch. “Look just this morning my boat come back, 60 snapper after 16 days at sea,” the man lamented. He noted, however, that while the smaller boat operators would be affected by the dredging since they work within the area, there has been reports that some of them would have received compensation to vacate the space. He believes that those persons would have received payment through Exxon’s compensation mechanism, but could not confirm this.
CDL had also conducted outreaches within the Vreed-en-Hoop area – one of the outreaches was held at the regional office as part of work toward the EIA. However, checks with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website provided no information on the environmental document.
British Colombia University Professor, Dr. Janette Bulkan is among several persons questioning why no EIA is available for the Vreed-en-Hoop project in relation to the dredging activities which cross traditional fishing grounds. Last week Bulkan called on the EPA to give an explanation.
In June, project partners turned the sod for the Vreed-en-Hoop Shorebase Inc. (VEHSI) project which will sit on 400 hectares of coastal land. The VEHSI is being constructed by NRG Holdings Incorporated; a 100-percent Guyanese-owned consortium with Hadi’s World Incorporated, National Hardware Limited and ZRN Investments Incorporated as the Guyanese investors. They have partnered with Jan de Nul Group, a Belgian engineering and construction firm.
Bulkan said, that a MARAD Notice to Mariners on June 28 defined a sea area of 119 square kilometres offshore from Plantation Best where the biggest of the oil field shore bases is being constructed with deep-dredging activities expected up to year end. The clear intention, she said, is to allow much larger ships to navigate the Demerara Ship Channel into the Georgetown Harbour, but the area defined for dredging crosses traditional fishing grounds of the artisanal fishermen. She sought to make a case on behalf of the small operators who she believes may very well be unaware of severe disruption the activities could bring to their business.
Another notice on July 1 revealed that dredging had commenced. “By its nature, dredging disturbs the natural environment and, here, affects the livelihoods of fishermen. Fishers have both legal and customary rights to their traditional fishing grounds. I cannot find any call by the Environmental Protection Agency to demand an Environmental Impact Assessment,” Bulkan remarked. She continued that government and its oil partners have approved “breakneck” speed in developing oil and gas but said that there “is no national conversation on the negative externalities of this reckless pace of extraction which are and will be borne, now and into the future, by Guyanese and the non-human life forms with whom we share our territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone. She reiterated her call for an explanation on the unavailability of the EIA and called for the protection of the legal and customary rights of fishers to their traditional fishing grounds. The Vreed-en-Hoop shore base is expected to service Exxon’s US$10B Yellowtail project, the largest of Guyana’s oil operations so far.
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