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Guyana not farming out fishing grounds to Chinese

In the wake of concerns by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) that the country’s deep-sea fishing grounds are about to be farmed out to Chinese, a top government official has denied such assertions and has ruled out sea bobs and prawns being among the targeted catch.

The GHRA at the weekend blistered government for handing out the fishing grounds to Chinese at the expensive of local fisher folk.  The human rights body also accused Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy of ignoring numerous requests by the Guyana Association of  Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) for a meeting to discuss the lingering concerns.

Well-placed usually reliable persons have told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that a key decision-maker in the then Bharrat Jagdeo administration has been instrumental in persuading the Ministry of Agriculture to give the Chinese approval to fish.

Ramsammy could not be immediately contacted but subsequently a Ministry of Agriculture source, who spoke to DemWaves on condition of anonymity, explained that a Chinese group and the Guyana government have inked an preliminary agreement.

That agreement provides for the Chinese entity to conduct a feasibility study and assessment of the stock of harvestable marine species before applying for fishing licenses.

At the same time, the official vehemently ruled out the Chinese being allowed to catch sea bob and prawns- a move if done could put players in the local fishing industry at a disadvantage.

Concerns have been raised by the GHRA about the voracious nature of Chinese fishers at a time when there are concerns about overfishing in the Caribbean. “If this project were to go ahead, it is patently clear that Chinese factory ships will be anchored offshore and fed from catches from the Chinese trawlers to be cleaned, filleted, frozen and packaged,” said the GHRA.

The GHRA was worried that Guyanese workers, their economic and human rights would be put at a disadvantage by the Chinese fishers.

Caribbean Agriculture ministers last month agreed to develop research to disprove claims by an American non-governmental organisation that overfishing in the Caribbean island chain has led to the depletion and endangerment of a number of species.  If the United States administration accepts that NGO’s finding and recommendation, some fish exports from the region may be banned.