Sep 29, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a new initiative this year, inspired by President Irfaan Ali, to save the fishing industry. Already, close to $27M has been pumped into fish cages to breed different species in Region Two; but Shadow Minister of Natural Resources, David Patterson is adamant that this scheme will not save Guyana’s dwindling fisheries sector.
In an interview with this newspaper on Monday, the former Minister of Public Infrastructure emphasised the need for an independent baseline study to be conducted offshore. Given that fishers have been complaining about low catch – which they believe is triggered by the current oil and gas activities conducted by ExxonMobil- Patterson pointed out that the study would be effective in making this determination and therefore would pave the way for Guyana to take the next step.
In the meantime, he said, “The idea of fish traps and things like that, those are just gimmicks. A fish trap is basically a portable fish pond and it means you would have to buy fingerlings and things like that. That can’t save the whole industry so like everything else, this is just a plaster on the wounded fishing industry but they have to examine it holistically.”
The former minister does not believe that the incumbent government has a plan to save the country’s fisheries sector. He explained that while he does not believe the investment is waste of resources, his position is that the cages are simply unfit or inadequate to save the suffering fisherfolk.
“They have deployed these fish traps in villages like Capoey, so those are the people being affected by Exxon’s operations. It may help those remote villages but it is useless for the fisherfolk that fish in the seas and oceans that are being affected. None of the villagers in Capoey, which is an Indigenous community, fish in the oceans so they are not addressing the real issue, just simply using these communities for PR purposes. These traps may help the communities- it’s too early to tell- but not the fishermen that are currently suffering.”
In its Mid-Year Report, the Ministry of Finance explained that despite efforts to revive the fisheries sector, the industry is estimated to have contracted by 19 percent in the first half of the year, as a result of “lower marine production”.
It was pointed out that fish production fell by 11.8 percent and shrimp by 26.4 percent when compared with the same period in 2021. Government was keen to note, “These declines outweighed the 444.1 percent increase in aquaculture production, which was driven by increased brackish water shrimp production. Notably, Government’s investment in aquaculture infrastructure, and drainage and irrigation systems yielded an almost 300 percent increase in the production of brackish water shrimp in the first half of the year. This, however, was not sufficient to increase overall value added from the industry.” Given this sector’s performance in the first half of the year, the Finance Ministry estimates that the industry can contract by 29.8 percent this year.
On September 20, the Ministry of Agriculture deployed Guyana’s first two marine cages at Lake Mainstay, Region Two.
The announcement was made by President Irfaan Ali in a Facebook post. The Head of State also revealed that “similar cages are also being assembled for deployment at Lake Capoey,” another location in Region Two.
The Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha told Kaieteur News that a total of eight marine cages were purchased by Government to the tune of US$133,000 or approximately GYD$26.6 million. He said that tenders will soon be invited for the supply of fingerlings which will be placed in the marine cages, to be managed by the respective villages. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department will aid in developing local capacity to man the marine cages. According to the Minister, “Mainstay was the first project and we believe this will definitely increase production because what we are looking at- one cage will start out with about approximately 3000 fingerlings so that will give us 6000 at this startup project.”
Minister Mustapha was keen to note that the project is geared at improving fish production and economic activity. This year, the Ministry of Agriculture was allocated $200 million to rollout the fish cage initiative geared at enhancing the production of prawns and tilapia among others.
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