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EU Ambassador touts local fishing sector as next big industry; urges competitiveness

EU Ambassador to Guyana, Robert Kopecky, Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, Dr. Susan Singh, Guyana’s Chief Fisheries Officer, Densel Roberts (second from left) and the two consultants.

by Zena Henry

European Ambassador Robert Kopecky has viewed the country’s local fishing industry as possibly the next major economic phenomenon, but says being unable to meet international standards is the major humbug to Guyana being internationally competitive.

This issue was also addressed by Dr. Susan Singh –Renton, Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism during her presentation to the EU Ambassador, Chief Fisheries Officer, Densel Roberts and stakeholders who congregated at the Regency Hotel Wednesday May 3, for a national consultation on the environmental aspect of the industry.

The consultation is one of a series of activities under the 10th European Development Fund which partly addresses commitments under the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries, of which Guyana is a member state.

Ambassador Kopecky, while speaking about fishing in CARIFORUM region, observed that the sector is a competent source for a wide range of goods and for the sustainability of region’s inhabitants.

“This resource contributes significantly to food security and provides employment poverty alleviation, employment, foreign exchange earnings, development and stability of rural and coastal communities, culture, recreation and tourism. The sub sector provides direct employment for more than 120,000 fishers and indirect employment opportunities for thousands of others particularly women, in the processing, marketing, boat building, net making and other support services.”

The Ambassador pointed out that a strong cooperation of the EU in Guyana is also in the area of forestry, logging and trade among other areas. He submitted that a lot more can be done, in terms of manufacturing boats in Guyana and such resources.

Pointing to numerous local fishing grounds, Kopecky suggested that, “Fish potential, given the topography of your country is naturally here and I deeply believe that sustainable, good fisheries for the future is the way to go for Guyana in termsof employment, in terms of GDP contribution and food security,”

Dr. Singh –Renton noted that the EU and CARIFORUM corporate on a wide range of related issues such as duties and charge, achievements of market standards and trade services. Such national consultations, seek to strengthen institutional and technical capacity of CARIFORUM states “in addressing their obligations in complying with sanitary measures…. thus achieve overall competitiveness for their products on the international market.”

She said Guyana’s fisheries has great economic potential but is not being utilized because of “insufficient capacity to respond to international health and sanitary requirements.” The end result, she explained would be to get a better price. “If you have better quality fish, you get a better price,” she said.

Two consultants, Margeir Gissarson and Helga Gunnlaugsdottir of Iceland have been visiting lading sites, looking at current sanitary measures and will give and evaluation and proposal to help with the country’s current system.

The Chief Fisheries Officer,who spoke in the absence of Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, remarked that the sanitary aspect of fishing industry is very important, “with the globalised world and increasing buyer demand for sanitary standards by importing countries. We exporting countries have to follow and meet those standards,” he urged. “If we don’t, our access to markets will be restricted, it is a very competitive market,” he insisted.

Some challenges include infrastructure availability, transportation of the goods, and accessing ice for storage among other concerns.