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Guyana working towards Marine Stewardship Certification

The gathering at Fisherfolk Day 2015 at Charity, Essequibo

The Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture has joined with the Seabob Industry to apply for Marine Stewardship Council Certification (MSC), the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported on Tuesday.

This certification is a well-recognised eco-label that proves that a country has adopted sustainable fishing practices.

The Seabob Industry and the Fisheries Department are putting measures in place to ensure that such certification will be granted. This includes installing by-catch reduction devices on trawlers to ensure that the quantity of fish that is caught and discarded is reduced, thereby balancing the ocean’s ecosystem.

This was told to stakeholders in the sector by Minister of Agriculture Mr Noel Holder as they observed Fisherfolk Day 2015, at Fishers’ Port, Charity, Essequibo, Region Two on Monday. The theme of the day was ‘Healthy Oceans, Protecting Livelihoods, Enhancing Food Security.”

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) are being installed on trawlers to allow traceability to give an alert of possible illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

The benefits of MSC includes, showing that a country’s fishery has been independently confirmed as well managed and sustainable,  gives an edge over competitors in the marketplace, and it assure buyers that the fish comes from a well managed and sustainable source.

Meanwhile Minister Holder, cognisant of the dangers faced by fisherfolks in plying their trade, said Government will be taking a proactive stand to address the issue, through adopting an inter-agency approach in order that the desired results are attained.

The Minister pointed out that “we are aware of the dangers fisherfolk face on a daily basis and are committed to protecting you and will work diligently to ensure we make your working environment a safer place.

Recently, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, addressing the same issue, told Berbicians that one of the proposals being considered to deal with this scourge is allowing fishermen to carry arms during their duty. He explained though the fishermen will be allowed to go out to sea with their firearms, and when they return, the police will take charge of the weapons and ammunition. The procedure will be repeated when the fishermen go back to fish.

He further explained that the ministry has to have practical solutions because measures such as having the “Coast Guard vessels watching how you fish” would not be possible as it would be expensive. “What we would need are some practical solutions,” the minister said as he identified measures such as ensuring better response time by the police and coast guard units. In this instance the minister noted that the latter’s metal shark boats will be put to use. Efforts will also be made to ensure that boats are equipped with radio systems so that their positions could be tracked.

Speaking on the issue, as well at the Essequibo forum, Coast Guard Commanding Officer of Essequibo, Adrian Mc Lean pointed out that the Maritime Department of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has received a lot of assistance over the past few years to better execute its functions.     

This includes metal shark boats and a floating base in the Essequibo River. However, a major challenge remains the lack of communication between the police and the fisherfolk.  As a solution to this, Lieutenant Mc Lean proposed that Guyana look into a smart phone technology that was proposed by the University of West Indies (UWI), which will allow easy communication between the two parties.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry George Jarvis saluted the fishermen for their courage, and pledged the Ministry’s full support towards the fight against privacy.  

Fisheries, along with agriculture and forestry contribute 31 percent to the Gross National Product (GDP) of Guyana. The industry comprises three components-marine, inland and aquaculture, and employs approximately 15,000 people.