Gov’t mum on fishing proposal by Chinese company

The government remains tight-lipped on a possible US$70 million investment proposal by a Chinese fishing company seeking to operate 30 deep sea fishing vessels.

Last August, Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy stated that no licence had been granted to any Chinese company for deep sea fishing. “No licence will be granted for open fishing. If given, it will be for specific species,” he had explained.

Head of the Fisheries Department Denzil Roberts, while noting that all foreign licences are dealt with at the minister’s level, had echoed Ramsammy’s statements last year. “The Fisheries Department and the Ministry of Agriculture have no agreement with Chinese companies for potential licences to be granted,” he explained in an e-mail response. “We have been approached by several individuals and groups and we have advised them to research the deep water resources and apply for species specific licences,” he added.

Neither Ramsammy nor Roberts was able to give any specifics on whether the unnamed Chinese company had sent in any information as yet and the status of the research.

However, the Associated Press recently reported that Fuzhou Hongdong Pelagic Fishery Co. has already submitted a proposal for various permits. The report stated that the Chinese fishing company, which specialises in shark fishing, would like to operate 120-foot trawlers and drift netters, two auxiliary boats as well as a storage and progressing facility on land.

It is understood that the company has also reached out to the government requesting possible concessions and tax breaks.

According to the Associated Press, Fuzhou Hongdong Pelagic Fishery Co. requested to set up test nets for up to a year prior to launching into a full scale operation.

Stabroek News had reached out the ministry in December requesting information on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with a Chinese company as well as the potential proposals from Chinese companies looking to invest in long line and deep sea fishing in Guyana. The MoU was for a study of seafood species that can be fished here without affecting local fishing operations and it had prompted criticism. After the subsequent revelation that the ministry was receptive to potential investors conducting their own research, critics pointed out that having an entity conduct its own research allowed for skewed reporting.

Meanwhile, head of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) Philip Vieira told Stabroek News that the minister has given assurance that there will be no licence granted for shrimp varieties. He said given the fact that there was an agreement on the reduction in fishing fleets a few years ago, it made no sense for any international companies to be granted licences before local entities.

He said that GATOSP and the ministry are in communication and that the association has expressed its concerns due to over-fishing of various species and added that so far it is confident that nothing will be done without consultation.

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