Saturday, April 26, 2008

Guyana mulls entering tuna market… Imminent crackdown of illegal fishing in deep seas - Persaud

Guyana mulls entering tuna market… Imminent crackdown of illegal fishing in deep seas - Persaud
By Leonard Gildarie
Kaieteur News, 26 April 2008

Government has warned of a possible crackdown on illegal fishers in the deep seas and is also considering moving the closing season to the middle of the year to avoid over-exploitation of key sea foods, including the prized sea-bobs (shrimp).
The statements were made on Thursday by Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, at a workshop to mull the pros and cons of Guyana entering the tuna market.
The clear absence of key representatives of the fishing industry at the forum held at the Grand Coastal Inn, East Coast Demerara, also came under fire from the Minister who threatened to find interested partners to develop the tuna industry if the local stakeholders are not interested.
The forum was hosted in part by the International Commissioner for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and was described as important at this time, especially in light of the current crises on the world market for food.
The workshop was to agree on a way forward for a tuna industry with key discussions on quota and processing and marketing aspects. Other areas would have included the training of fishers in new techniques of fishing, and new vessel types.
Guyana has to become a member of ICCAT before it can exploit and market tuna.
According to the Minister, the fishing strategy plan for Guyana welcomes the idea of entering a new frontier in deep sea fishing and this country stands ready to abide with the necessary regulations.
While ICCAT's annual fee is an imposing Euros12,000 annually, the fact is that Government intends to encourage the local industry to become an integral part of the organisation, especially in light of the fact that the local fishers are the ones benefiting, the Minister said.
Currently, the country is moving through the Fisheries Advisories Committee (FAC) to ensure that it improves drastically its database on deep sea fishing.
Stressing the tremendous potential of exploiting the deep seas for its resources, Persaud disclosed that $10 billion is earned annually from sea foods alone with half of this coming from the export of sea-bobs.
It was also disclosed that recently, a fishing expert was looking at the methodology of monitoring stocks to prevent possible over-exploitation. Based on technical grounds, the closing season (when fishing in deep seas cease for about six weeks) should be moved to mid-year from its normal October time, the Minister said.
According to Persaud, Guyana needs to manage those resources in a strong, sustainable way. If the industry is not interested in venturing into the areas of tuna, then “they should tell us so”, so that other parties could be approached.
The Minister acknowledged that the government's capacity to monitor the deep seas is hampering them and there are indications that prime fish resources are being pilfered.
Against this background, there is an urgent need to ensure that the fishing authorities maintain a presence in the deep seas area with the opportunities grasped, he noted.
Meanwhile, the Minister has signaled a possible overhaul of the Fisheries Department which currently falls under the Ministry. There is a move to increase its capacity with skills and to make it a semi-autonomous body.
He admitted, however, that there is still a lot of work to be done with the process to restructure not moving as fast “as we want…”
In addition to the exploitation of the deep seas, Government is also pushing the development of the aquaculture department which is slowly gaining ground.
The further development of the sea food industry will place the country in a better position, especially with the demands for food in the world.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the FAC, Andrew Bishop, in his presentation highlighted the growing importance of the fishing industry in Guyana.
FAC, he said, is playing a crucial role in the revamping of legislation. The Committee is key to the development of the sector with over 20 members coming from the trawler association, artisan fishing, police, Coast Guard, UG and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Currently, FAC is working to vastly improve its database collection which is a crucial to the conditions laid down by ICCAT where demands for proper and in depth recording keeping is a must.

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