Jul 26, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – We are working with clashing information on where things really stand with the fishing sector in Guyana. While we do so, the reality is that our fisherfolk are struggling to cope, keep losing ground, in their struggle to deal with what is their primary source of income to take care of themselves and their families. The simple fact is that fish catch is declining, and there is this conflict on what could be the cause of this devastating situation.
We start with the most recent information coming to light. In news releases concerning Exxon’s seeking the necessary permit from Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the wording in some of the related documentation provides a more than reasonable linkage between the whole range of the company’s activities and the downside effect on Guyana’s fishing sector, among a host of other marine related issues, all mostly negative.
As we see it, this establishes a compelling connection between what is occurring in our seas, and what is being experienced by our fisherfolk working traditional fishing grounds to make a living. In the briefest terms, their plight could be traceable to oil operations, and this is coming from the horse’s own mouth, Exxon’s documents. In view of the circumstances, it is reasonable to think, to expect, that the local EPA would have said something, taken some stand, done something. The least that should have come out of Guyana’s EPA saddled with all the obligations of an agency of the State, hence the people, was that it stepped forward and acknowledged the correlation between oil operations and fishing impacts.
It would have helped to offer that work is going on, with developments intended to ease the situation of the fisherfolk. We think that its senior officers have a duty to do so, given the enormous importance of the local EPA in this time of huge oil discoveries, and announcements of intentions towards more accelerated activities. Most unhappily for Guyanese, and with specific importance for Guyana’s fisherfolk, the local fishing sector, and the larger segment of consumers in society, this country’s EPA has been content either to hedge, stonewall, or retreat into telling silence. We struggle to put the best face on this, but it is now undeniable that the EPA has engaged in what is nothing less than an ongoing dereliction of duty, and grossly so.
Why its people have seen it fit to conduct their sensitive responsibilities in this manner is open to all manner of speculation, with none of them favourable to the organisation, its leaders, or those controlling its leaders. The controllers would be none other than those possessing the necessary power and authority to muzzle and neutralise the EPA and its people standing guard over our interests. Clearly, this is bad and a problem of huge proportions. But it is not the whole story about what is happening to our fisherfolk, and the extents to which the PPP/C Government has moved to put on plasters that quickly peel off about what is going on with declining fish catch. The Minister of Agriculture made it his duty to stand before the Guyanese public and stoutly declare that, based on a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study there was no relationship with declining catch of Guyanese fishers, and the operations of the oil companies in our waters. It was the kind of news that should have cheered many Guyanese hearts, except that the FAO itself rushed out with its own public position that, at best, left matters in the air, while making such even murkier.
For its part, the FAO stated that what was done was a rapid study and as based on available data. By itself, that sounds like what was done could not get to the real facts on anything, which is why we believe that the FAO was quick to say count us out of these maneuvers. So, here it is that we have Exxon’s documents noting one thing, the Minister of Agriculture delivering another, and the EPA offering nothing. What is really what, and who is there for these suffering fisherfolk? We think that the PPP/C Government could be ruled out as being on the side of Guyanese fishers.
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