Dwindling fish stocks being addressed with sustainable plan – NRDDB

The North Rupununi District Development Board has noted a decline in fish resources across the district and given its grave impact, efforts have been taken to develop guidelines for stakeholders to adopt.
The Board noted that while these resources are extremely important for the region, there are no specific regulations in Guyana which govern inland or freshwater fisheries.
“According to local, Indigenous fishers and experts, fish stocks are dwindling in the Rupununi. Diminishing fish stocks may be due in part to the growth of small and medium-scale commercial fishing, human population growth, and changes in climate,” the NRDDB said.
As such, it began tackling issues related to inland fisheries in the North Rupununi Wetlands, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), with support from the Ministry of Agriculture – Department of Fisheries and the Iworkama International Centre back in 2001. They conducted research and created a local management plan for arapaima, aquarium fish and developed a general fisheries management plan.
In 2019, with support from the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme – Guyana Project, the NRDDB was able to finalise the plan and begin piloting its implementation. The SWM-Guyana Project is being implemented in the Rupununi region over a period of five years by the Government of Guyana through the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission.
The initiative is funded by the European Union, through the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and coordination with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
The NRDDB’s management plan for fisheries recognises traditional fishing methods, the importance of fish as food and as part of the household economy. The objectives of the plan are to establish guidelines that will ensure careful use of fish resources in the North Rupununi Wetlands and to ensure that community members have equal access to fish resources for home use and selling.
The plan includes fisheries guidelines, monitoring fish stocks and fish consumption and environmental education in 10 villages, including Apoteri, Fair View, Surama, Rewa, Kwatamang, Yakarinta, Crashwater, Kwaimatta, Yupukari and Katoka.
“In collaboration with community leaders, local fisheries officers monitor fishing activity along the Rupununi and Essequibo River boundaries of the North Rupununi Wetlands. They speak with fishermen they meet the along [the] river and explain the importance of fisheries management and request that fishermen respect the local management plan,” the Board noted.
Local residents, shops and lodges that support sport fishing have contributed information about the species and amount of fish purchased and consumed. This data is given to the Fisheries Team for a detailed understanding of the amount and type of fish that is being taken out of the rivers in the area.
“Implementation, however, has not been without a few challenges: some member communities, commercial fishers and individuals continue to flout the rules, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of COVID-19 guidelines, we have been unable to hold meetings with fishers and community leaders to address and advise on implementation of the plan and research. This poses many difficulties since community census and feedback is necessary for the successful implementation of the management plan,” the NRDDB expressed.
A diverse and rich fish stock is important not only for the rivers, but for helping to maintain a thriving ecosystem and supporting the many residents who depend on the resource for food. (G12)