Sargassum seaweed partly responsible for Guyana’s reduced fish production

Last Updated on Tuesday, 1 November 2016, 16:26 by Denis Chabrol

sargassumGuyana’s fish production has suffered a significant decline partly due to the adverse impact of sargassum seaweed, local and regional fishery experts said.

Chief Fisheries Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Denzil Roberts said dry weather due to climate change, piracy, cost of inputs for small-scale fisherfolk and the presence of sargassum seaweed have conspired to reduce Guyana’s fish production.

“For the past two years, we had a heavy presence of the seaweed. It affected us a lot,” said Roberts who was in the Cayman Islands last week for a meeting of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, a Caricom policy-making organization.

Roberts said Guyana would be modifying a protocol that has been adopted and approved by the CRFM to combat sargassum seaweed which can be to a depth of as much as 40 feet. Experts say the seaweed entangles the outboard engines of fishing vessels, resulting in reduced mobility and possible damage.

CRFM Executive Director, Milton Haughton added that it was clear that the seaweed has contributed to Guyana’s reduced fish production in recent years because fisherfolk opted to make fewer trips for fear of obstruction. “Even the sargsassum seaweed, in Guyana the fish production dropped  by about 10,000 metric tonnes between 2014-2015,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Haughton was also in Cayman Islands for the  CRFM meeting and the agriculture ministerial meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) which coincided with the annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).  “We are not sure exactly what are the reasons but there is some indication that the sargasssum seaweed had an impact  so we have to look at all these phenomena changes taking place and see how we can protect ourselves against them,” he said.

Caricom ministers responsible for fisheries last week approved the protocol for the removal of sargassum seaweed from the sea and seashores of Caribbean countries. The CRFM has tweaked the Puerto Rico model protocol and Caricom member states have been told that they would also have to make changes to adapt it to local conditions.

The CRFM Executive Director has also noted that sargassum seaweed is also beneficial to certain marine species while some fish leave the area. He said the weed is also a source of rich fertilizer and energy.