The Guyana Human Rights Association has expressed concern about reports that the government may be considering licensing of Chinese fishing vessels in this country’s waters.
Reports have surfaced about the government plan but there has been no definitive statement thus far.
The GHRA issued the following statement on the matter today.
The recent announcement that the Minister of Agriculture is considering licensing Chinese fishing vessels to operate in Guyana’s water is yet another example of Guyana’s natural resources being bartered away to Chinese interests without any reference to the people most directly affected, or the environmental effects.
In the context of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) having been instructed to limit their fleets in order to protect species and prevent over-fishing, the intended licensing of Chinese vessels is yet another example of Guyana’s biodiversity being sacrificed to Chinese profits. Moreover, Guyanese labour is once again taking second place to Chinese labour. If the current limits imposed on the number of trawlers allowed to fish in Guyanese waters is to be lifted, Guyanese fishermen ought then to be the first to benefit.
If this project were to go ahead, it is patently clear that Chinese factory ships will be anchored off-shore and fed from the catches from the Chinese trawlers to be cleaned, filleted, frozen and packaged. How else would they dispose of their catch?
Moreover, Guyana already has bad experience of factory ships. Some thirty years ago factory ships servicing the US market carried out exactly the same strategy. Although illegal, captains of Guyanese trawlers would sell half of their catch to these factory boats, then bring the rest ashore in Guyana. Not only will this practice be re-introduced, but the voracious appetite of these new vessels will encourage over-fishing on a grand scale.
The President of GATOSP, reportedly, cannot get a hearing from the Minister of Agriculture, who is generating contradictory messages about what has already been agreed, what will not be agreed and what is being considered. The Minister is said to be awaiting more details from his technicians. All of this points to another instance of the local politics of the issue being sacrificed to technical considerations. The views of GATOSP are evidently a low priority since their President has complained that he cannot get responses to his letters nor an interview with the Minister.
Assurances that the Chinese will not be allowed to fish for species currently assigned to GATOSP members is a subterfuge, since the Ministry has no way of effectively monitoring what is taking place on the high seas.
Moreover, the price of fish, already high on the local market, will rocket and variety of available species will be reduced.
The Minister’s complacent attitude to the labour, environmental and food price consequences of this matter is disturbing. Were it an isolated example, it might be viewed as an oversight. However, his position conforms to a clear pattern of priorities in which Chinese interests are privileged over what is good for Guyanese bio-diversity, Guyanese labour and Guyanese standard of living. This would be an intolerable state of affairs even were China an example of good governance, environmental integrity, and human rights. Unfortunately, China is more often associated with exactly the opposite set of values. Does the Government of Guyana believe these characteristics are set aside in China’s dealings with Guyana? If the Government has a case to make why Guyanese interests should be sacrificed in this manner, the Guyanese people have a right to hear it.