Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder yesterday called for all fishermen in Guyana to be licenced and to have their boats registered, if the industry is to remain sustainable and viable.
Addressing a gathering of fisher folk on World Fisher Folk Day 2016, at Number 66 Village, Corentyne, Berbice, the minister said it was time for Guyana to not only reflect on the progress made thus far, but address some of the constraints which still lie ahead.
Touching on illegal fishing, Holder said, “When you are fishing without a licence, you are fishing illegally. When boats come into our waters without a licence they are fishing illegally.” He warned that there are penalties for fishing illegally.
According to the minister, at the last fisher folk day, he was assured by the Fisheries Department, that there would be fewer fisher folk without licences. “In fact, everyone who fishes in our waters should have a licence,” he said. The minister said the staff of the Fisheries Department have completed licensing exercises and would now be embarking on enforcement. He advised fisher folk gathered, “Who don’t have licences, please get your act together and fish legally.” Holder further stated that it is recognised globally and nationally that the fisheries resources are important in the achievement of food security. He said, “We in Guyana are fortunate that we are in possession of this resource, as it is possible to consume fresh fish all year round at an affordable price.” He highlighted, that although sometimes Guyanese may take this for granted, it is important that everything possible is done to preserve this commodity, “so that future generations can benefit the same way we are benefiting.”
According to the minister, efforts by the international and even the local community towards sustainable fishing are hampered by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. The minister stated that according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), IUU activities are responsible for the loss of between 11 million tonnes and 26 million tonnes of fish each year with an economic value of US$10 billion to US$23 billion. Holder said, “This is serious, as those involved in IUU fishing also do not… practise sustainable fishing nor do they have any regard for future generations.”
He stressed that the entire global community has decided to take a further step in combatting these IUU activities. With the FAO taking
the lead, a Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) was developed to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.
“Guyana became a signatory to this agreement in March of this year. This agreement seeks to utilize robust port state measures to combat this scourge,” Holder explained. He assured fisher folk that Guyana is part of the fight against IUU fishing.
“I urge you to play your part by getting yourself licenced, practice sustainable fishing activities, utilize gear that does not target juvenile fishes, pay attention to where you fish and comply with whatever regulations that are applied by the Fisheries Department,” he admonished.
Region Six Chairman David Armogan, who was also in attendance, highlighted the importance of the fishing industry to the country’s economy. He said, “Sugar and rice, which are the two major pillars of the Berbice economy have been falling over the years,” and there is need for diversification. He said, “Diversification is one of the ways in which we can boost the local economy.”
A few fishermen were awarded with appreciation certificates and trophies, while a mini ramp was also commissioned at the event.
The celebration was held under the theme ‘Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing: Preserving our Marine Resources.’