Deodat, who told Stabroek Business that he was also a member of the National Fisheries Advisory Council said that he was out of Guyana during the April 2 fisheries forum hosted by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) but that the views expressed at the forum on reduced catches and the unpredictability of the fishing season by Jainarine Pameshwar were an accurate representation of some of the challenges facing the fisheries sector in the Corentyne area.
Deodat’s statement, in a telephone interview with the Stabroek Business last Tuesday, came in the wake of a report in the April 8 issue of the state-run Guyana Chronicle which quoted a Ministry of Agriculture press release challenging Parmeshwar’s account of the state of fish stocks as contained in a Caricom Secretariat statement following the CRFM Panel Discussion.
The release from the Secretariat had said that Parmeshwar expressed concern at the forum “that fishers from his area had been seeing smaller catches every year.” However, the Chronicle report quoted the Ministry of Agriculture press release as saying that “it is incomprehensible that the Caricom Secretariat, in a press release, will pursue a view of a single individual and not consult on the evidence available at the Ministry which shows that the (fisheries) sector has been relatively stable under the present circumstances.” The statement also said that the Secretariat should “produce evidence of its assertions” rather than make pronouncements “on the basis of individual opinions.”
However, Deodat told Stabroek Business that the problem of reduced catches had surfaced in the past at various levels, He said that while Corentyne fishermen were receiving “good cooperation” from Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud more steps needed to be taken to curb irresponsible fish harvesting practices, particularly from larger fishing vessels from outside the area.
Deodat told Stabroek Business that he felt that a case had long been made for putting more resources into the local fishing industry given the fact of its increasingly important contribution both to the country’s food security and to its economy. He said that he believed that the potential of the fishing industry to boost Guyana’s export earnings exceeded that of even sugar and rice and that in those circumstances the industry was deserving of a greater measure of official support.
According to the Caricom Secretariat release Parmeshwar has recommended that a management structure be set up to guide fisherfolk “on how they could regulate their fishing and diversify their enterprise.”
Concerns over depletion of fishing stocks were also raised by former Guyana Chief Fisheries Officer Reuben Charles who, according to the Caricom Secretariat press release “pointed out that among the concerns of fishermen was the depletion of their fishing grounds once national jurisdictions were opened to fishermen from other Caricom territories.”
Other stakeholders who participated in the intra-regional fisheries forum pointed to the underutilization of the wider oceanic space of the Caribbean which, they said, limited the capacity of the industry to contribute to the economy of the region.
According to the release from the Secretariat, the CRFM is seeking to develop a comprehensive strategy designed to enhance the quality of its communication with stakeholders in the sector and that the mechanism will also serve “to promote the sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture resources in and among member states.”
According to the release from the Caricom Secretariat, Chief Fisheries Officer, Nigel Dharamlall who participated in the forum said that “the government of Guyana had begun to recognize the potential of the fisheries sector” and that “greater efforts were underway to exploit the country’s aquatic resources.” Dharamlall, according to the report, cited the institutional strengthening of the Fisheries Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture in an effort to transform it into a semi autonomous body; the establishment of a Fisheries Advisory Committee and the development of a National Fisheries Management Plan as evidence of a heightened institutional focus on improving the performance of the sector. The release said that Dharamlall also alluded to the recognition on the part of the Government of Guyana of the importance of sustaining local fish stocks and that in this regard it had begun to encourage greater investments in aquaculture.
The April 2 panel discussion, according to the release from the Caricom Secretariat, was part of a strategy by the CRFM designed “to communicate more effectively with stakeholders in the fisheries sector” in order to enable the body to promote “the sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture resources in and among member states.”
Caribbean Ministries responsible for fisheries have adopted a proposal by the CRFM that the body be recognized as the regional representative for fisherfolk in policy decisions relating to the industry taken at the state and regional levels. All Caricom member states and three of the five Associate Members – Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands are involved in the CRFM.