Corentyne fishermen to receive licences to operate in Surinamese waters – Min Mustapha

Corentyne fishermen are soon to secure their licences to ply their trade in the Corentyne River following an agreement between Guyana and Suriname.
This announcement was made by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha on Tuesday after engaging the newly installed Fisheries Advisory Committee and the Guyana Fisheries Limited Board (GFLB). The correspondence issued by the Surinamese Government signalled that fishermen will be licensed directly by their authorities to operate without any challenges.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and Director General of the Agriculture Ministry Madanlall Ramraj during the meeting with fishermen

This will eradicate issues where significant fees were charged for fishermen to obtain licensing and is regarded as a first in history.
“We’ve had some very positive feedback from the Surinamese Government. We are on the verge of securing licences for Guyanese fishermen. Two days ago, I received a correspondence from the Surinamese Government and I’m optimistic that this will be the first time in the history of our country that our fishermen might be licensed directly by the Surinamese authorities. So, the problems that we’ve been faced with, where the middlemen normally charge large fees for small fishermen to have licences could be abolished,” the Minister stated.

Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Committee Seepaul Narine

In the past, Guyanese fishermen have been intercepted by Surinamese Coast Guard for allegedly fishing in the country’s waters.
Meanwhile, the fisheries industry is on the cusp of realising its full potential, as Government focuses on crafting policies to ensure sustainability in the sector. Over the past years, the sector has evolved into one of the largest income earners for the economy, raking in some $16 billion in 2020.
As part of Government’s efforts to further develop the industry, the Agriculture Minister charged the officials within the agencies to examine issues facing the sector and provide recommendations. He verbalised that as a country with border relations, there is a need for solutions when crises arise. Presently, over 15,000 persons are directly employed in the sector.
“We all know the importance of the fishing industry in supporting the economy of our country and Government has been putting a lot of effort and resources into the sector. It contributes almost 12 per cent to the agriculture GDP, provides employment with over 15,000 persons directly employed in the industry, and is a large income generator, especially in the rural areas across our country.”

Sustainable policies
As these entities work to craft policies for the industry, the subject Minister reminded that it should enable the fisherfolks to sustain their income. The Fisheries Advisory Committee, he said, must also ensure that it advises on the development of the fisheries sector by devising plans and programmes to guide Government’s vision.
“One of those measures is to enhance support for fishermen and corp societies, and you know we are now looking to resuscitate the National Fisherfolk Organisation. We also have to look at the promotion of commercial fisheries, which should include partnerships with investors who already have established markets. It is also important for you to look closely at ensuring that fishermen displaced by activities in the oil and gas sector are compensated, if any,” he shared.
Newly-appointed Chairman of the Fisheries Advisory Committee, Seepaul Narine added that the magnitude of fisheries in Guyana cannot be downplayed while adding that thousands of people and their families depend on this trace for an income.

In relation to issues in the sector, President of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP), Ruben Charles said he is looking forward to a study on the effects of oil exploration on the low level.
“Lots of things have happened and I’m glad that I’m in a position to say something about the future of the industry. Our organisation, the Trawlers Association, is experiencing some difficulty now in terms of catch levels and members of that association are, without any scientific guidance, are attributing that to the drilling of oil out there. One of the things we would be seeking is to see how we can mount some investigation to prove whether that is so,” Charles related.
In response, Mustapha said that issues such as factors contributing to low catches will be addressed. He added that the Board and the committee have the Ministry’s full support to make representation for studies to be conducted to determine whether oil exploration activities are indeed affecting the sector and determining a sustainable way forward for the sector.