DRAFT May 29, 1996
I. Basic Features of the Sector
A. Fisheries and the National Economy
B. Description of the Fisheries
II. Policies of the Sector
A. Past Evolution of Policies
B. Description of Current Policies
III. Description of the Principal Issues and Constraints Facing the Sector
IV. Sectoral Objectives
V. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justifications
A. Achieving Sustainable Production Levels
VII. Recommended Legislative Changes
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The fishery sector is of critical importance to the economy and to the social well-being in Guyana. Indeed, the economic contribution of the fisheries has grown dramatically in recent years. The importance of the fisheries is evident in five key areas:
1. Food Supplies
Fish is the major source of animal protein in Guyana. It is estimated that per capita annual consumption of fish rose from 9 to 27 kilograms between 1980 and 1988, and was nearly 45 kilograms in 1991, more than three times the world average of 14 kilograms per year.
2. Contribution to the Guyana Economy
The Guyana Bureau of Statistics estimates that the primary sector of fisheries contributed G$4.5 billion to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or value added in 1995, more than 6 percent of the total. The contribution of fisheries was greater than that of bauxite, and almost twice that of forestry.
From Table 31-1, it can be seen that finfish for the domestic market is the largest component of the industry, followed closely by shellfish for export. The finfish catch has increased significantly since 1989, as has seabob for export, whereas volumes of prawns exported have declined. (Table 31-1 reports the gross value of the catch, not value added.)
Total Value of Guyana Fish Products, 1993
Source: National Fisheries Management and Development Plan, op. cit.
Total value of fish products in Guyana in 1992 was G$4.8 billion. As Table 31-1 shows, the most valuable component was domestically marketed finfish, worth G$2.7 billion.
Domestic shellfish sales, aquaculture products and ornamental fish exports also contribute to the value of the fisheries. In addition, significant quantities of fish are harvested for local consumption on inland rivers, lakes, and flood plains. The inland fisheries are an important source of nutrition, particularly for hinterland communities.
Retail prices for key domestic fish products have risen at more than double the general rate of the increase in consumer prices. The Guyana dollar value of United States import prices for shrimp from Guyana rose approximately 200% between 1990 and 1993, and prices in domestic currency for finfish jumped by 340% over this period because of changes in the exchange rate.
3. Contributions to Export Earnings
Guyana's 1994 export earnings from fisheries were approximately $G2.7 billion (US$20.5 million). Exports of finfish grew from 931 mt. in 1989 to 1,325 mt. in 1994, while total shrimp exports (prawn, seabob, and whitebelly) rose from 2,608 mt. to 2,891 mt. during the same period (Table 31-2). Increases in the export value of finfish products of up to 300% in domestic currency through the early 1990s provided an important boost to the economy of Guyana, and particularly to the artisanal sector.
Guyana Exports of Marine Products, 1989-1994
|Seabob and whitebelly||719||669||1,073||1,238||1,239||1,408|
|Finfish and by-products||943||1,521||2,367||3,151||3,080||3,485|
Note: The data series of the Bank of Guyana show total shrimp exports of 3,525 tonnes in 1994.
Given that only 13% of total finfish landings were exported in 1994, there is potential for continued expansion of this trade. Exports of shrimp (prawns, whitebelly, and seabob) seem to have stabilised as to volume, and future growth of shrimp exports are likely to come only from development in the aquaculture sector.
4. Contribution of Employment and Incomes
The fishing industry employs some 4,800 people in harvesting and 5,800 in processing and marketing. More than 10,000 jobs depend directly on fishery and many more people benefit indirectly from fishing-related occupations, such as boat building, supply, and repair. In addition, significant numbers work in processing, distributing, and selling fish and fish products in domestic markets. A high proportion of workers in processing, distribution and retail are women, and they are active in harvesting as well. Region 4 has a particularly high concentration of women in all activities of the sector. About 1,000 women in total work in the sector.
5. Government Revenues Derived from the Fisheries
The fishery is a significant net contributor to Government revenues in Guyana, through export taxes, licence fees and consumption taxes on imported fuel for boats. Export taxes of 10% on the value of shrimp, 5% on the value of ornamental fish, and 1.5% on the value of finfish generate substantial revenues for the Government. Licence fees for fishing vessels are an additional source of revenues. It is estimated that the sector contributed G$433 million in revenues to the Government in 1994, and in contrast accounted for only G$5 million in Government expenditures.
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The fisheries subsector of Guyana is made up of three primary components, with further subdivisions, as follows:
- Industrial trawl fishery
- Small-scale artisanal fishery
- Subsistence fishery (for food)
- Ornamental fish industry
- Brackish water culture
- Fresh water culture
1. Marine Fishery
a. Fishing zones and resources
The Marine Boundaries Act of 1977 established a fishery zone beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea (12 miles) and bounded on its seaward side by the line, every point of which is two hundred (200) miles from the nearest point of the baseline of the territorial sea. On February 23, 1991, the zone became recognised as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) when the President of Guyana promulgated an order known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (Designation of Area) Order 1991, acting under the provision of Section 15 of the Maritime Boundaries Act, 1977. See Figure 31-1.
Guyana has a coastline of 432 km. and a continental shelf area of 48,665 sq. km. The average width of the continental shelf is 112.6 km. The area of the EEZ is 138,240 sq. km.
Most of Guyana's fishing effort occurs in relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf. The marine resources exploited within the EEZ are mainly the demersal fishery resources and, to a much more limited extent, the pelagic fish resources over the continental shelf and toward the continental slope. Some of the demersal species are showing clear signs that they are being exploited at an unsustainable rate, particularly prawns, sharks, and mackerel. On the other hand, some deep slope demersal species and pelagic species are underexploited in spite of their greater potential. From a commercial viewpoint, the most important stocks may be the cross-boundary species. Harvesting these stocks and ensuring that they are exploited in a sustainable manner will require joint initiatives with Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil.
Guyana Fishery Zone
Although the data about the sector are estimates for the most part, and they are not especially consistent, Table 31-3 summarises the available recent information concerning the stocks of marine resources and recent production levels.
Resource and Production Levels in the Fisheries Sector, 1993
Pelagic fish biomass
Demersal fish biomass
Total estimated biomass
Source: National Fisheries Management and Development Plan, op. cit.
Note: Estimated production from inland fisheries has been constant at
800 mt/yr. for many years, so that figure appears to be less
reliable than the others in the table.
Certainly all of the production from artisanal fisheries would be reaped from the demersal stocks, and a good portion of the industrial production as well, and therefore the pressure on those stocks is immediately evident from the table. In contrast, the pelagic species are little touched, except by poachers from other nations. These data immediately suggest the need for better management of demersal stocks and at the same time the desirability of an expansion seaward of the fishing effort, to deeper waters.
In terms of markets, the industrial fishery dominates exportation, which is concentrated in shrimp, whereas the artisanal and inland fisheries are oriented toward the domestic market almost in their entirety.
b. Industrial fishery
The industrial fishery consists of 119 trawlers, five fish/shrimp processing plants, and many wharves and dry docking facilities. Ice and freezing facilities servicing this fishery are owned and operated by participants within and outside the fishery subsector. The trawlers are 54 percent foreign owned. Foreign trawlers mainly exploit prawns (Penaeus species) with finfish as by-catch while locally owned trawlers mainly exploit a smaller shrimp called seabob and finfish. These trawlers measure about 21 meters in length and use double outrigger shrimp trawl nets and operate in waters 14 to 34 meters in depth over the seabed of mud, gravel, or sand. Also, there are six stern trawlers that measure about 16 meters in length that should fish in depths ranging from 14 to 30 meters for finfish. The total number of trawlers has fallen by about 20 percent since the early 1980s, reflecting the apparent trend toward decline in the prawn population.
In keeping with the Fisheries Act of 1958 and the Maritime Boundaries Act of 1977, trawlers are registered and licenced with the type depending on foreign or local ownership, length of vessel and its base of operation. Fishermen are also licenced.
Transshipment at sea is prohibited by law, although it is widely suspected to occur on a significant scale.
The trawler fleet is demarcated in terms of their operations (prawns, seabob/finfish, finfish) and the vessel licence indicates this. The prawn vessels operate as a limited-entry fleet with the upper limit being set at 100. Likewise, the seabob/finfishing fleet has an upper limit set at 30 vessels. The setting of this number is influenced not only by the paucity of information on the seabob resource but also by the fact that these vessels operate within the breeding and nursery grounds of the marine fishery.
Trawlers catching prawns take on board finfish as by-catch, and the prawn trawlers are required to land 15 mt of by-catch each year. However, dumping of by-catch at sea still is a widespread practice. This is especially damaging to the stocks when the by-catch includes a significant portion of juvenile fish.
Some trawlers, especially those configured for seabob, target finfish when seabob is not in abundance. While the stress on the prawn resource has been evident for a number of years, seabobs too are now being more fully exploited, and several new seabob processing plants have been opened. The seabob/finfish trawlers have been operating increasingly close to shore, and this has produced a greater incidence of conflicts between the industrial and artisanal fisheries.
At present, the mesh size of nets is not regulated in practice, neither for the industrial fishery nor for the artisanal fishery. Also, greater enforce the existing law for avoiding entrapment of turtles in the nets, through use of turtle excluding devices, will be required in order to maintain access to U.S. market for shrimp.
c. The deep slope fishery
In addition to the trawlers, fishing boats known as handliners, measuring up to 18 m in length, fishing at depths between 120 m and the edge of the continental shelf, target snapper and grouper. Each vessel is normally equipped with eight polyethylene handlines, each line carrying 16 hooks. Less than five vessels are involved in this snapper/grouper fishing. Inefficient gear and comparatively high operating costs hamper them, and the activity has declined in recent years. If these problems could be overcome, there appears to be room for limited expansion of this fishery in view of its potential sustainable yield, with production oriented toward export markets and the developing tourist market. Improvements should come through increases in efficiency, basically by moving to larger vessels outfitted with electric snapper reels or hydraulically powered longline haulers. Technology transfer would be needed here. The issue of poaching by foreign vessels is especially important in the snapper/grouper areas.
d. Small scale fishery
The small scale or artisanal fishery is an important source of food, in both rural and urban areas, and it is increasingly important as sources of employment, income and export earnings. It experienced rapid growth, both in numbers of participants and volume of landings, through 1992 but since then the trend appears to have leveled off. Besides the frictions with the industrial fishery, there are increasing complaints by drift seine fishermen that they have to spend longer periods at sea, use longer nets, and fish farther from shore to maintain their catch. In terms of species, shark production in particular has been increasing, and as a result there are increased landings of cabio, mackerel and bonito, species that occur in areas where sharks are harvested.
The artisanal scale fishery consists of approximately 1,240 vessels ranging in size from 6 to 18 meters, propelled by sails, outboard or inboard engines, and using gear that include Chinese seine (a fyke net), pin seine (beach seine), Cadell lines and handlines, drift seine, gill nets and circle seine. Gill nets are the most widely used gear. Gears such as the pin seine, the Chinese seine and the nearshore nylon gill net do substantial damage to the resource by catching juvenile fish and crustaceans.
The larger vessels have ice boxes and go on fishing trips that last as long as eighteen days, while smaller vessels have no ice boxes and their operations are either tidal or diurnal. Except the large handliners and drift seine that may or may not be decked, most artisanal vessels are flat-bottomed dory type with little draft that affords great maneuverability over shallow muddy and sandy bottoms.
There are about 4,500 small scale fishers. Of these about 1,000 are boat owners. Sixty to 70 percent of the boat owners are members of fishermen's cooperatives (thirteen in all) which acquire and sell fishing requisites to their members. Activity in the inshore artisanal fishery is pursued exclusively by Guyanese, although in the past both Suriname and Barbados have sought permission to participate in it. There have been some disputes between Guyanese and Surinamese artisanal fishermen over use of the waters at the mouths of the Berbice and Corentyne Rivers.
The development of onshore infrastructure (wharves, ramps, workshops, fuel depots, requisite shops, ice machines, and fish storage bins) at eight sites along the coast, financed by the Government with assistance from CIDA and the EEC, has been completed. Six of these complexes have been leased to the fishermen's cooperatives within whose boundaries they fall for management and operations. Poor management, narrow vision, and lack of capital hinder the operations of most of these complexes. Joint-venture arrangements are proposed for the remaining complexes.
An increased number of artisanal boats means a higher demand for ice and the Georgetown area has not been able to meet the demand for ice that seabob trawlers also require, owing to lack of access to sufficient fresh water. The availability of ice has been found to be strongly correlated with production in the artisanal fishery and has become a limiting factor. This matter is currently being addressed with a substantial private sector input.
2. Inland Fishery
a. Subsistence fishery
Freshwater fishing is conducted in rivers, creeks, lakes and reservoirs, canals, and in savannah areas where the seasonal increase in rainfall gives rise to large expanses of seasonally flooded lands. The activity tends to be influenced by the down period in agriculture and availability of other economic activities. For example, in the estate areas the intensity of fishing varies with the harvesting of sugar cane and rice. The activity is carried out with small, flat-bottomed, dory type vessels and cast nets, seine or handlines.
The limited data available indicate that most inland fishing is carried out by Amerindians, although non-Amerindians fish in inland waters near the coast and in the vicinity of logging and mining communities situated in the interior of the country. At present, the effort is largely directed at subsistence fishing, although a few fishermen participate in small-scale commercial fisheries based on inland waters.
The country's flowing waters are the "blackwaters" typical of rain forest regions. They are characterised by a reddish-brown stain of humus compounds, an acid or very acid reaction and a low level of dissolved minerals. Their level of biological production is low unless the waters are retained in lakes or canals, where nutrient status and productivity tend to rise. Many of these waters do, however, support a diverse population of fish, often reaching large sizes. This apparent anomaly between an environment low in productivity and a relative abundance of catchable fish could be due to the very low level of exploitation to which these waters have been subjected until recently. Indeed, the steady increase in fishing pressure has already brought about a decline in the sizes of some fish caught. These effects are undocumented but generally reported. The implication is that the resource cannot sustainably support a yield much above that which meets subsistence requirements.
Areas that seasonally alternate between dry savannah grasslands and a shallow floodplain caused by a heavy rainfall and rivers overlapping their banks usually have a high level of fish production. This productivity results from the abundance of nutrient materials absorbed into the water from the dry lands when the flooding occurs. There are some forty or fifty thousand square kilometers of these seasonally inundated floodplains in the southwestern areas of the country, especially in the Rupununi, and a potential harvest of up to 100 tonnes per square kilometer may be achievable.
There is a limited amount of harvesting, especially of crab, in intertidal and shallow sub-tidal areas along the coast, without the use of vessels. The main crab species taken are the blueback or blue sheriga (Callinectes bocourti), the bunderi (Cardiosoma guanhami) and the red sheriga (Portunus rufiremus). Better access to cold storage or processing facilities could add considerable value to this fishery.(2)
The major species of freshwater fish caught in Guyana are listed in Table 31-4.
Major Inland Fish Species
|Local Name Scientific Name|
Lukanani Cichla oceliaris
Houri Hoplias malabaricus
Wabri Metynnis shreitmuelleri
Patwa Cichlasoma bimaculatum
Tiger Fish Surubim spp.
Hassar Hoplosternum littorale
Piranha Serrasalmos niger
Tilapia Orechromus mossambica
Yarrow Hoplerythrinus unitaeniatus
Sunfish Crenicichla saxatilis
Source: National Fisheries Management and Development Plan, op. cit.
In some areas of the country, observers report that some species are diminishing in availability as a consequence of the intensifying fishing pressure. In many cases, however, the subsistence fisherman will respond to declines in the stocks of fish by reducing his fishing effort. An exception to this kind of flexible and responsive exploitation occurs when fish poisons and explosives are used. They can be totally destructive of the fish over limited areas. Those who fish inland waters for commercial gain also may not curtail their effort in response to declining stocks.
There are many informal reports and a limited amount of systematic data to support the contention that water pollution and habitat degradation, particularly from mining and forestry activities on the river systems of the interior, are having a negative impact on the spawning and growth of many freshwater species.
b. Ornamental fish industry
There is a small but active trade of ornamental fish. Live fish are caught in the upper reaches of the rivers by collectors and brought and sold on the coast to six exporters of ornamental fish. The fish are exported mainly to the U.S.A. and to a much lesser extent to Canada and Europe. In 1993 about two million of these fish were exported, with a value of G$163 million.
Collectors catch ornamental fish mainly in riverain areas utilising craft powered by outboard engines and varying fishing gear (dragnets/seines, dipnets, pin-seines). Mortality rates in the fish are very high. At present, most of the ornamental fish caught and exported come from the following bodies of water:
- Canje River
- Berbice River
- Abary River
- Mahaicony Creek
- Mahaica River
- Upper Demerara River
- North West Area (vicinity of Morawhanna)
- Essequibo River
Some of the more valuable species are now being cultured in the U.S., and that development may have a long-term impact on the demand for ornamental fish from countries like Guyana. Furthermore, some consumers in overseas markets are demanding that strict environmental standards be followed in the harvesting of ornamental fish.
Prices received for ornamental fish by Guyanese exporters are only a tiny fraction of international prices. Export data from the Bureau of Statistics for 1993 show that the average export value of live ornamental fish from Guyana was about US$2.50/kg., compared to the average international price quoted in INFOFISH International (issue 44/94) of US$300/kg. Part of this discrepancy may be due to under-reporting, but no doubt part is due to quality considerations (health and mortality rates).
Significant opportunities for ornamental fish producers exist in improving quality, moving into pond production, and exporting directly to Japan and the EEC. It is thought that some of the present exports to the U.S. are re-exported to those countries.
Although aquaculture activities first started in Guyana in the 1950s, to date the development of the industry has been slow. Development has been retarded by lack of investment capital, technical skills, appropriate technologies, equipment and inputs, and research and training. Very little foreign investment has been injected into the industry since investment prospects generally have been better elsewhere in the region.
Right now, there are basically two forms of aquaculture practised in the country: traditional extensive brackish water culture, and freshwater pond culture. Brackish water farms operate as extensive polyculture systems utilising the existing sluices and dams from the sea defence structures to control water exchange at high tide. The sluices, when opened, bring tide water and a mix of eggs, fish fry and shrimp larvae into the empoldered swamps. In the empoldered areas, farmers often construct their own dikes and sluices to control water flow and exchange within individual ponds. In most cases, the trapped fish and shrimp grow to marketable size without any additional inputs. Fish and shrimp species grown in the ponds include queriman, snook, croaker, bashaw, tilapia, tarpon and indigenous shrimp such as Penaeus schmitti, P. aztecus and P. braziliensis.
Brackish water culture occurs mainly in the swamps along the Atlantic Coast in Corentyne, Berbice. Sixty-four farms, including two registered fish culture cooperatives, use approximately 670 hectares of coastal lowlands in what can be described as controlled exploitation of coastal swamps for a variety of finfish and shrimp species. The average size of a farm is eleven hectares.
In freshwater ponds, Tilapia mossambia, Tilapia nilotica and, to a limited extent, Hoplosternum littoral (catfish), are the main species cultured in Guyana. This type of culture produced an estimated 34 mt of fish in 1987 from about 115 hectares of ponds. The major producer is the Guyana Sugar Corporation Limited, with about 40 hectares of production ponds. Some schools and individual subsistence farmers are also involved.
Government established the Botanic Garden Fish Culture Station to conduct research and pilot-scale demonstrations and to supply fingerlings to fish farmers. This Station is now completely run down and must be either rehabilitated, replaced or sold, and options are being reviewed.
4. Processing and Marketing
The industrial and artisanal fisheries have largely distinct processing and marketing channels, though both could benefit from closer linkages for these purposes. In the sector as a whole, there is a wide range of processing technologies and quality standards. The greatest opportunities for increasing volumes and values of fish processed appear to be in the area of finfish.
Four licenced industrial processors are operating in Guyana, namely, Georgetown Seafoods & Trading Co. Ltd., B.E.V. Enterprises Limited, Marine Food Products Limited, and Noble House Seafoods Ltd. These industrial processors account for most prawn and seabob production and slightly under 20 percent of finfish production. They are export-oriented. Most prawns (95 percent) are exported, with only minor amounts sold domestically to restaurants. Most seabob (91 percent) also is exported. Industrial finfish production is split more evenly between export (64 percent) and domestic (36 percent) markets. In total, about 77 percent of the industrial production is exported.
Prawns are produced and exported in a variety of forms but the dominant product form is frozen shell-on tails. This product is sold mostly to the U.S. with Japan providing the second most important market and a minor amount going to CARICOM countries. Seabob shrimp are almost entirely exported to the U.S., in peeled form, with the domestic market absorbing the remaining, small quantities. Guyana producers supply a relatively small proportion of the U.S. market for both products.
Finfish landed by industrial processors is primarily a by-catch of shrimp operations. Declines in prawn production in the late 1980s and early 1990s, combined with increasing prices for finfish, resulted in increasing interest in processing the latter by some industrial companies.
It is estimated that in 1993 industrial processors produced roughly 5,500 mt of frozen finfish products. Of this total, 1,200 mt were marketed domestically and 3,500 mt were exported. Finfish exports go mainly to CARICOM countries, the U.S. and Venezuela. A significant proportion of domestically marketed finfish is purchased by cottage processors. The landed quality of this catch reportedly is poor due to the lack of ice for long periods at sea and compression on board.
The interest in finfish on the part of industrial processors is confined to species with high prices and ready export markets. These species include grey snapper, gillbacker and bangamary. Large quantities of finfish by-catch of species that do not command high prices are still discarded at sea.
About 80 percent of the finfish landed by the inshore artisanal fishery is sold fresh or fresh on ice, while of the remaining 20 percent three-quarters is converted into frozen products by industrial processing plants. The remainder is processed into dried or smoked products by cottage industries.
Of the shrimp landed by artisanal fishermen, about 50 percent is sold fresh to consumers. Of the remaining 50 percent, 47 percent is sold to cottage processors and 3 percent to industrial processing plants for processing into frozen peeled shrimp.
Some cottage industry processors, as well as some individuals, export frozen, salted and smoked finfish, dried shrimp and other by-products such as fish bladders, shark fins and fish glue. In 1993 there were 405 shipments of finfish by small-scale exporters. They trade primarily with CARICOM countries and West Indian communities in North America.
The cottage industry for salted, smoked and dried fish and shrimp has the potential to process and preserve larger quantities of product that could be exported or sold in hinterland areas and mining camps, where cold storage facilities are not so readily available. It is a labour-intensive industry and therefore could contribute to employment generation in rural areas.
In addition to the sales to cottage processors, the fish and shrimp landed by artisanal fishermen are marketed by various means, which include:
a) Vendors purchasing from boat owners for sale by cart or bicycle to a given community.
b) Vendors purchasing from boat owners for sale in municipal markets or at roadside markets, especially on paydays at sugar estates.
c) Sale of fish and shrimp at outlets and supermarkets in Georgetown.
d) Middlemen purchasing large quantities of fish from vessel owners in outlying areas and transporting them to processing plants.
e) Processing plants sending out trucks to purchase fish or shrimp.
f) Sale of salted, smoked and dried products of cottage industries by vendors in markets; at outlets and supermarkets; and by middlemen in hinterland areas.
Within the industrial fishery sub-sector, a great deal of effort is placed on quality control, especially as it relates to products for export. The lapses tend to occur with the by-catch sold as "mixed fish" to cottage processors. In the artisanal fishery sub-sector, not a great deal of attention is paid to quality control, neither with the fresh fish nor with the salted, smoked and dried fish. This is perhaps due to the fact that most of the fish is sold locally at fairly high prices and the local consumer seemingly overlooks quality considerations for the most part.
The need to improve the quality of fish and fish products on the local market, as well as to maintain the quality of fish and fish products being exported, is recognised. This is especially important in light of recent laws and regulations of some importing countries such as the U.S., Canada and the EEC regarding the quality of imports of marine products.
A report prepared by J. Bentink in March 1993, entitled "Draft Proposal for the Establishment of a National Export Quality Control System," presents a clear picture of quality issues in Guyana fisheries and proposals for a new quality assurance system. Some of its main findings include the following:
"A few processing establishments attempt to have in place some measure of quality control and a QC supervisor, in others it is practically non-existent. Also, in the majority of cases a greater percentage of those factory workers are unaware of their role in maintaining or preserving quality of the product and observing good hygienic practices.
"Not to mention the mediocre laboratory facilities available for sampling and analysis, and the fact that inspections are usually conducted in an ad hoc manner, with scant reference to reliable product standards or according to any inspection manual. Also there is little or no control over sanitation or hygienic practices on sea, at landing sites or markets.
"Therefore, the quality of fishery products leaving Guyana is highly questionable, and the manufacturer would be subjected to un-due pressure to prove his operations and resulting product capable of meeting the stipulated requirements of the importing country" (pp. 11-12).
5. Artisanal Fisheries Infrastructure Complexes
The Artisanal Fisheries Infrastructure Project (AFIP) was implemented from 1984 to 1993 with assistance from CIDA and the EEC. The EEC and the Government of Guyana funded the establishment of the inshore fishport complex at Meadowbank in Georgetown in 1987, while CIDA and the Government funded inshore fishport complexes at #66 and #43 on the Corentyne, and at Rosignol, Parika, Lima, Charity and Morawhanna. Of the eight complexes constructed, six have been leased to Fishermen's Cooperative Societies for management and operations, of which by far the largest is the Greater Georgetown Fishermen's Cooperative Society Limited (GGFCSL).
The objectives of the AFI Project were to:
a) Reduce post-harvest losses and thereby increase the supply of fish to the local market and for export.
b) Increase the productivity and incomes of artisanal fishermen.
c) Move the existing Fishermen's Cooperatives toward the role of local organisation of producers and marketers.
These Cooperatives' complexes have to varying extents made progress toward achieving objectives a) and b), but unfortunately none of them have made any headway toward objective c).(3)
The Societies have remained uninvolved in the marketing of their members' catch. Their main roles are to supply their members with ice and equipment at cost. They also suffer from insufficient skilled and experienced management personnel and lack of working capital. (GGFCSL is somewhat of an exception to these statements.) A main limitation for their involvement in marketing is that the complexes do not have cold storage and freezing facilities. This is a major hindrance and, among other things, results in lower prices for fish in the outlying coastal areas, because of the difficulty of storing the fish and transporting it to Georgetown.
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Early policies for the fisheries subsector were first outlined in the Fisheries Act of 1957 that set out to organise the industry. Administrative and other arrangements provided modifications and additions to that policy, e.g., duty free fuel for the industry to promote growth in the early sixties, obligatory landing of by-catch to prevent waste of resource and to provide more protein for the country in the seventies, the ban on importation of fish and fish products to promote growth of the industry and develop self-sufficiency in the late seventies, and fisheries cooperative development in the seventies.
Given the lack of updated legislation and a comprehensive fisheries policy document, the fisheries policy of Guyana has been set and updated in development plans that include: the National Development Plan (1972-1976), the Fisheries Development Plan (1979-1983), and the Draft Fisheries Development Plan (1989-1993) which followed the Agriculture Development Plan (1987-1990). Recently the Draft Plan has been updated in a Fisheries Subsector Policy and Planning Document and submitted to the Government for consideration in May 1994, and a revised policy draft dated March 1995.
Clear enunciation and implementation of policy in the past has been inhibited by severe institutional weaknesses. Lack of sufficient funding, and therefore of adequate staffing, has seriously hampered the operations of the Department of Fisheries. As of December 1994, only 17 out of 42 total positions in the Department were filled, and only one out of eleven senior technical and administrative positions. Data collection and studies, policy making, implementation and monitoring all have suffered because of this circumstance.
At the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s policy attempted to forge a greater role for the State in the fisheries sector, creating two State enterprises for that purpose, Guyana Fisheries Limited (GFL) and the Guyana Libya Fishing Company. Both experienced operating problems, and GFL's 21 trawlers were sold in the early 1990s and its facilities rented out. Of the ten trawlers of the Guyana Libya Fishing Company, fewer than three are operational now.
At the same time, the private fishing sector suffered from lack of capitalisation, in vessels, processing facilities, and storage and marketing facilities, and lack of appropriate technology in many cases. For inshore fisheries, little attention was paid to questions of sustainable yield and how to regulate the industry so that its harvests were consistent with the rate of reproduction of the species, perhaps in the belief that the point of exhaustion of stocks would never be reached. Throughout the world, the reality of declining fish stocks has emerged abruptly in recent years, undermining that comfortable assumption.
In effect, albeit not in design, a laissez-faire approach characterised past policies toward the private fisheries. The sector was viewed as a source of tax revenues, and little public expenditures were made for it, outside those mandated by the attempts to establish State fishing industries. Economic concerns and declining fisheries resources for some species are now forcing a fundamental reevaluation of policies toward the sector.
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The general objectives, strategies, and global targets for agricultural development set out in the Draft Agricultural Development Plan (1987-1990), in which fisheries has been identified as one of the subsectors for special attention at a national level, were used as a guide to develop the major objectives in the Draft Fisheries Management and Development Plan (1989-1993).
The six major objectives adopted for the Draft Fisheries Management and Development Plan (1989-1993), were:
1. The rapid increase in aggregate output and productivity to impact on the growth of the national economy significantly.
2. The achievement of nutritional self-sufficiency and food security.
3. The maintenance in good working order and the optimal utilisation of assets related to production.
4. The generation of increased employment and income in the sector.
5. The intensive utilisation of the country's flora and fauna to meet non-food basic and cultural needs, such as those related to energy, clothing, home construction and furnishing, and arts and crafts.
6. The increase in net foreign exchange earnings.
The overall strategy was to provide services and pursue policies that were supportive of improved technology and cultural practices to promote the growth of fisheries production; to diversify fisheries production and processing; and to achieve the necessary cost efficiency for competitiveness.
In striving to implement this strategy, it was agreed that emphasis should be placed on the following:
1. Making optimum use of the existing production capacities before seeking to establish additional capacity.
2. The allocation of resources where they could obtain optimal use and would yield the greatest foreign exchange benefits.
3. Development of new products and by-products of traditionally produced items by using techniques that are appropriate.
4. The promotion of regional self-sufficiency in food and other items including those for daily use, thereby reducing the hinterland's dependence on the coast for supply of important basic commodities.
5. Provision of direct and indirect incentives, including:
- the adoption of producer-oriented policies, especially in the areas of pricing, marketing, supply of essential inputs, and import concession;
- improvement of service delivery systems relating to the provision of technical training and advice, credit and input distribution, and statistical and resource capability information for planning and marketing purposes;
- maintenance and expansion in all regions of production award systems in areas of activities that are consistent with those emphasised in the Plan.
The overall strategy recognised the dualistic character of the fisheries subsector, that is, an export oriented sector of large scale commercial production of shrimp (prawns) compared with the equally important domestic oriented small scale/artisanal production (of finfish). However, the increasing scarcity of some species, and therefore the need to husband those stocks, was not duly recognised, nor was the need to withdraw the State from production activities and instead strengthen its regulatory role.
The following additional factors have influenced current fisheries policies in practice:
1. The establishment of the 200 miles fishery zone and exclusive economic zone by most countries (Guyana, 1977), and the global agreement of conditions arising from this development as set out in UNCLOS III (United Nations, 1983). The clauses of significance are:
"The Convention of the Law of the Sea gives coastal States sovereign rights over the resources of the exclusion economic zone (article 56), [...and . . . ] it is the sole prerogative of the coastal State both to determine the allowable catch of the living resource in the EEZ (article 611), and to determine its own capacity to harvest those resources (article 62).
"One of the main duties of the coastal State is to ensure that 'the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over exploitation'. Towards that end the coastal State has to adopt proper conservation and management measures (article 61).
"Where the coastal State does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it has the duty to give other States access to the surplus of the allowable catch.
"The convention provides for States to take measures in order to coordinate and ensure the conservation and development of stocks where 'the same stock or stocks of associated species occur within the exclusive economic zones of two or ore coastal States' [ . . . ] States may utilise appropriate subregional or regional organisations in seeking to agree upon measures to be taken.
"The coastal State and other States whose nationals fish for high migratory species both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone, are under a duty to cooperate to ensure conservation and promote the objective of optimum utilisation of such species."
2. Changing economic circumstances and policies in Guyana, demanding the removal of subsidies to the industry.
3. The current international accord of the "Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing" (FAO), 1995, which outlines principles for States in relation to:
- Fisheries management
- Fisheries operations
- Aquaculture development
- Integration of fisheries into coastal area management
- Post harvest practices and trade
- Fisheries research
- Compliance with other international accords
4. The HAACP requirement for quality control in fisheries that is being introduced by the major importing countries such as the United States, Canada, and the EEC.
As a consequence of these factors and the evolution of thinking about fisheries management, the major operational objectives of current policy, de facto, could be characterised as follows:
- improved management of renewable natural resources to achieve long-term stability and sustainability;
- expansion of export earnings;
- restructuring of government services to reduce problems of inadequate staffing levels due to fiscal constraints;
- development of new cost recovery mechanisms for extension and other services to industry;
- development of effective education and training programmes;
- expanded production from aquaculture through private investment and/or joint venture arrangements;
- expanded harvesting of underutilised marine fish species through private investment and/or joint venture arrangements;
- upgrading of seafood product quality and food health standards to protect and promote export markets;
- improved legislation and regulations, and expanded surveillance and enforcement capabilities, to protect Guyana's marine resources within the EEZ;
- development of new structures to promote industry and producer participation in resource management and regulatory activities;
- development of new strategies to reduce poverty, to protect food supplies, and to promote socioeconomic development in coastal and inland communities, and specifically concerning the participation of women in the fishery.
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1. Health of Fisheries Resources
a. The sector's broad potential
Guyana's fishing activities are concentrated on the continental shelf and to a minimal level on the continental slope, while there is no activity in the far offshore area and the potential of the coastal and oceanic pelagics are not known. As fishing pressure increases on our traditional inshore fisheries, fishing activities to explore the commercial potential of these offshore resources should be initiated.
b. Marine resources
Various estimates of the magnitude of the standing stock and potential yields from these resources have been attempted. Table 31-5 provides some of these estimates on potential yields.
Summary of Marine Resource Potential
Maximum Sustainable Yield Calculated (mt)
|Survey or Scientist|
|Snappers and groupers||-||-||1,500||-|
The Artisanal Sector:
Fleet Size and Employment in Fish Harvesting
1987 to 1994
|Year||Vessels||Captains||Crew members||Total Crew|
1Preliminary data from the 1994 DOF Frame Survey. The DOF estimates that the actual number of artisanal vessels is greater than 1,200.
Shrimp production has been declining at a significant rate since 1974. This decline followed a period in the 1960s and early 1970s when the size of the fleet fishing the Guiana Banks numbered more than 700 vessels and, in the view of most fishery scientists, represented excessive fishing effort on this fishery (Charles, 1990). Reduced landings also followed the establishment of the EEZ by most countries.
Prawn catches by the industrial fleet have been falling and the Department of Fisheries data confirm that fewer than 70 shrimp trawlers are currently fishing out of a fleet of about 90 vessels.
In the artisanal sector, there are indications that the catch per unit of effort has dropped in 1994 after a period of impressive growth. Reduced incomes and employment for fishermen, and some shrinkage in the size of the fleet, have been the results. The Department of Fisheries data show the strong growth of the artisanal sector from 1987 to 1992, and a recent slowing of that trend (Table 31-6). There are increasing conflicts between the artisanal and industrial fisheries, with the frequent result of damage to artisanal fishing gear by trawlers operating close to shore.
The key to development in any fishery is long-term sustainability. If exploitation rates are not controlled, the contribution of fisheries to GDP, exports, employment, and nutrition, will be significantly reduced.
Conservation and management measures to control harvesting levels and protect stocks are therefore the highest priorities in the preparation of the National Fisheries Management and Development Plan and this statement of policy in the National Development Strategy.
Another basic area of concern, which has become a bottleneck for the development of the artisanal fishery, is the adequacy of facilities for processing and cold storage, and the existing deficiencies in quality assurance.
c. Inland fisheries
The most pressing issues in this sector are the need to protect the waterways from environmentally destructive practices associated with the expansion of mining and forestry operations, and the development of potential inland fisheries and aquaculture.
Pollution from mining activities and the use of chemicals and pesticides threaten these resources. Expansion of fisheries activities in these areas must be carefully examined. While fresh water stocks are relatively abundant in many areas, it is felt that their reproductive capabilities are limited and that no efforts should be made to expand harvesting levels dramatically. There is a need to examine current and potential fisheries activities in hinterland communities, and to identify appropriate development options, possibly including fish stocking and aquaculture initiatives. With six months of rain and six months of drought in inland areas, there is a need to improve methods for preserving fish to stretch the food supply through the year.
There is pressure to expand the harvesting of certain ornamental fish from the interior water systems. Concerns about stock conservation and a lack of in-depth knowledge of the market dynamics for ornamental species call for a cautious approach. With proper research and development work and market development, there may be potential to produce ornamental fish by means of aquaculture methods.
2. The Potential of Aquaculture
Despite serious development efforts in the past, the aquaculture industry is still in its infancy. It has significant growth potential, both for the production of low cost food supplies on subsistence or artisanal basis, and for production for processing and export.
Aquaculture has been increasing at an amazing rate on a worldwide scale. Many species of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants have been successfully cultured. The cultivation of shrimp has exceeded all other fish or shellfish and is the largest contributor of aquaculture products.
The cultivation of fish and shrimp lends itself to countries situated in tropical climates, have coastal access and underdeveloped lands. The development of shrimp farming industries has proven to provide employment and foreign investment opportunities, increased export product range and foreign exchange, additional local incomes and improved standards of living, and additional protein sources for the country.
Although in some coastal areas the soils are acid-sulphate and thus inappropriate for aquaculture, many natural conditions required to raise shrimp and fish successfully already exist in Guyana. The existence of a natural marine shrimp industry to supply post-larval shrimp to the ponds is an important requirement (as the industry grows, the demand will increase for post larval shrimp and the construction of hatcheries becomes feasible). The topography of the coastline must be mangrove swamp or flat, with low elevation with tidal streams and estuaries.
The infrastructure already exists for the processing facilities and marketing system for handling shrimp and fish.
An in-depth investigation is required to determine the overall economic potential for fish and shrimp culture and to decide the extent and areas that might be suitable.
Development options include the more intensive use of creeks, canals and polder lands for food production for local markets, the introduction of new species (particularly shrimp), and the use of aquaculture techniques to produce ornamental fish for export. To avoid interspecies problems, the production potential of indigenous species should be examined before exotic varieties are considered for introduction.
The keys to development in the aquaculture sector are expansion of applied research and development, attraction of adequate levels of investment and modern technology, and effective training and extension work with industry. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive aquaculture development policy and a regulatory framework that take adequate account of environmental constraints, particularly in the foreshore areas.
3. The Management System (Institutional Capabilities)
The compelling paradox of the Guyana fisheries is that through the period of strong industry growth the Government's capacities to regulate and manage the industry were sharply reduced. Due to wider economic constraints the Government of Guyana has not been able to offer salary levels that are competitive with the private sector. As a result, qualified personnel currently occupy only 9 of 32 professional and technical positions in the Department of Fisheries.
This situation calls for new strategies and approaches. With rapid industry expansion and the resulting danger of over-exploitation of the stocks, it is imperative that the Government's ability to manage the fishery and to plan and control its development be enhanced.
The Department of Fisheries must have the budget and staff to carry out assessment and other data collection to regulate and monitor the domestic fisheries, to promote aquaculture and other development options, to provide adequate extension support to the fishermen's cooperative societies, to provide the training that the industry needs, and to enforce Guyana's sovereignty within its own territorial waters. There is pressing need for international efforts to protect and manage cross-boundary stocks, particularly in the shrimp fishery.
New ways to attract and hold qualified staff and new sources of revenue, including innovative ways to tax the growth of the industry, will need to be explored.
4. International Fisheries Management
Current stock assessment research suggests that the most important commercial fish stocks in Guyana's Exclusive Economic Zone are cross-boundary stocks. Effective management and stock conservation will therefore require cooperative initiatives with the governments of Suriname, Cayenne, Brazil, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago.
There are problems with illegal foreign fishing and over-the-side sales within Guyana's EEZ. Also, Guyana's fishermen regularly penetrate the zones of neighboring countries in pursuit of fishing opportunities. The expansion of surveillance and enforcement activities should be carried out on a regional basis, with close cooperation and communication among the governments involved.
5. Role of Cooperatives
The fishermen's cooperative societies have played a crucial role in the mobilisation of artisanal fishermen, in education and training, and in the maintenance and management of fish landing sites. Through the landing sites and a line of credit to purchase fisheries equipment, both supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the cooperatives have contributed significantly to the growth of finfish exports.
The cooperatives could be providing more services to their members and their communities through marketing and processing activities, and through fisheries management and conservation initiatives. They need to develop their capacities to finance their own expansion, possibly through joint ventures with other investors, to improve their organisational and management practices, and to identify and correct their weaknesses. To accomplish these goals they will need strong support from extension workers from the Department of Fisheries and the Cooperatives Department.
To play a role in the improvement of marketing, both for export and for domestic sales, it is essential that they obtain cold storage equipment.
6. Marketing and Post-harvest Processing
The currency devaluation, competitive wage levels and a well-developed processing infrastructure have all contributed to the growth in sales of processed fish products. With declining prawn landings, the main prospect for export growth is now finfish from artisanal harvesters. There also may be potential for development of new pelagic fish products. Quality improvement also will be one of the keys to growth.
Limited cold storage and processing capabilities in the artisanal sector make it difficult for finfish exporters to expand their markets. A lack of information and expertise related to international fish markets also inhibits the development of cottage industry exports.
In the industrial sector there is an excess of processing capacity because of reduced landings of prawns. The larger companies have diversified into finfish in recent years.
Over-capacity in the industrial sector and under-capacity in the cottage industry processors are important issues to be addressed. There is also a need for improvements in market intelligence and quality improvement programmes.
There is need to develop a comprehensive education, training an extension system for the fisheries sector to address the critical shortage of qualified personnel in the Government agencies responsible for fisheries administration/management and to upgrade the knowledge and skills in the technical fields such as engine mechanics, vessel and gear repair, fishing techniques, navigation, seamanship, safety at sea, etc.
Minimal fisheries related training is available in the training institutions in Guyana.
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1. General Constraints
a) Some major commercial stocks are being exploited near or above maximum sustainable yields.
b) No arrangement in place to manage or protect trans-boundary stocks.
c) Inadequate fisheries management system
- Lack of enforcement
- A paucity of data on the fishery and fishers
- No stock assessment
- Very weak extension system
- Incomplete licencing of vessels
d) Resource constraints in Department of Fisheries and Guyana Coast Guard. Neither agency has an adequate surveillance vessel.
e) Use of inappropriate fishing gear that leads to excessive amounts of by-catch and destruction of stocks of juvenile fish.
f) Continuation of over-the-side sales at sea and foreign poaching.
g) Weak aquaculture development in relation to its potential.
h) Destruction of mangrove habitat, reducing breeding grounds for shrimp and other species.
i) Undeveloped post-harvest infrastructures
- Uneven quality
- No product diversity
j) High cost of operation for industrial fishermen owing to use of outmoded technologies.
k) Lack of good market information in the artisanal sector, lack of management for self-sustaining business.
l) The fact that many vessels operating in the artisanal fishery are owned by non-fishers. Experience in other countries has shown that this type of arrangement can lead to a situation where resource conservation and management become eroded or of secondary concern.
m) Limited cold storage and processing facilities in rural coastal areas.
n) Damage to inland waterways from environmentally destructive practices.
2. Specific Constraints for Aquaculture
a) Land tenure issue: lack of access to freehold land or secure leases of very long duration.
b) Lack of aquaculture policy for long-term development.
c) Limited investment and lack of policy to promote it.
- Relatively high initial capital cost
- Uncertainty of return of investment
d) Lack of the infrastructure to facilitate research, development and extension activities by the Department of Fisheries.
e) Lack of qualified human resources to undertake research and extension activities in the Department of Fisheries.
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The fisheries sector is well-placed to contribute importantly to the achievement of both of the broad national goals of this Strategy: promoting rapid economic growth and ensuring that its benefits are as widely distributed as possible. In spite of limitations on some aspects of the fisheries resource, there are significant possibilities for continued growth in the sector, mainly through:
- More effective exploitation of the deep slope and pelagic resources.
- Improved quality in the post-harvest handling of artisanal finfish, to permit access to wider export markets as well as better supplies to the domestic market.
- More investment and improved technology in aquaculture activities.
The fact that artisanal fisheries are mostly located in rural coastal areas implies that improvements in this sub-sector would have beneficial effects on rural populations and would contribute to poverty alleviation. The important role of women in these fisheries means that they also would share the benefits of expansion.
It should not be overlooked that the widespread availability of fish products provides a vital buffer against the threat of malnutrition in the lower income stratum of the population. The inland fisheries, as well as some on the North West coast, provide an important complementary source of income and nutrition for Amerindians as well as other population groups.
At the same time, to assure the viability of the sector it is essential that its development pattern contribute to the national policy condition of environmental sustainability of the growth path. Without better management of the industry, some important stocks would continue their decline to the point of effective depletion. The consequences of such an occurrence for rural employment and incomes would be grave, casting in an urgent light the need to reach agreement with fishing communities and enterprises on measures to regulate the exploitation of some species. Fisheries, except aquaculture, are a common property resource and therefore avoiding their overexploitation requires agreement on joint actions and restraint by all involved parties. To achieve that the Government will have to provide the initiative through appropriate policies and monitoring, always acting in full concert with the affected parties.
From these considerations, the sectoral objectives may be stated in summarised form as follows:
1. Ensure that the nutritional, social, and economic benefits from current fishery operations are maintained and improved.
2. Give special priority to the preservation of artisanal fisheries and the improvement of incomes of those fishermen, in particular through better integration of their production activities with processing and marketing.
3. Put the sector on a more sustainable basis, environmentally, by improving our knowledge of marine eco-systems and stocks, taking measures to reduce incidental catch and waste of non-targeted species, assuring that the fishing effort is commensurate with the sustainable productive capacity of the resources, and introducing other environmentally sound practices.
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This chapter of the National Development Strategy establishes specific policies to accomplish the sector's objectives. Accompanying recommendations of a more detailed nature are found in the National Fisheries Management and Development Plan. The fundamental orientation of the policies is to promote a gradual shift in emphasis in the sector, so that the areas with greatest potential are encouraged to expand at the same time that safeguards are put in place to ensure that important species are not overexploited and exhausted, which could deprive our fishermen of a source of livelihood.
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1. Industrial Fishery
The industrial fishery needs to be encouraged to orient its capacities more toward finfish, particularly those of deeper waters. Marine prawn harvesting needs to be stabilised urgently at lower levels than the present ones, to avoid depleting the resource. Seabob production also needs to be stabilised. It is expected that large increments in shrimp production in the future would arise from expansion of aquaculture activities, propelled by adequate amounts of investment and modern technology and management methods.
The two most important components of policy for abating the current overexploitation of the marine shrimp resources are limitations on trawler operations and regulation of gear for all types of vessels. Trawlers have driven fish stocks to the point of non-recovery, or have threatened to do so, in many countries in what is now recognised as a world crisis of fisheries resources. Some countries, e.g., Indonesia, have decided to ban trawlers entirely owing to their devastating effects on the regenerative capability of many species. Others have imposed increasingly strict limitations on their operations, with priority given to preventing them from trawling inshore waters where many species have their primary reproductive areas.
In light of these concerns, Guyana's policy orientations for fisheries are clearly established in this document, and their implementation would be progressive, evolving as more precise information on the health of the stocks becomes available over time. However, enough information is now available that the nature of some urgently required measures is clear and they will be put into effect as soon as is practicable. They include the following:
a. Prohibit shrimp and finfish trawling in waters shallower than 18 fathoms, to reduce the damage to the juveniles, thereby increasing the total sustainable yield, and to reduce the conflicts with artisanal fishermen.
b. Enforce regulations on turtle excluding devices (TEDs) in all trawlers, to safeguard Guyana's seafood exports to the U.S. as well as to protect diminishing turtle populations.
c. Institute a programme of seasonal closures of the prawn fishery, during the approximately three months of most intensive recruitment of the species, for selected locations initially so that the effects of the programme can be studied and properly evaluated.
d. For seabob and prawns, improve and implement the present monitoring system (vessel logbook and plant logbooks) to provide accurate information on catch, effort and size categories of catch for making management decisions for this fishery, including the by-catch.
e. Encourage, promote and participate in a regional approach to management of the prawn resource. Guyana would pursue the fullest possible participation in the activities of the proposed Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC) Scientific and Advisory Committee for the Management of the Shrimp Fisheries of the Guyana-Brazil Management Area on Shrimp.
f. Undertake a study to determine the areas of high adult abundance and the level of seasonality of the seabob resource. This would be done with a view to reducing conflicts with artisanal fishermen and damage to nurseries and juveniles, and to determine whether a closed season is needed for seabob.
g. With annual renewals of trawler licences, require payment of significantly higher fees to the Government, to reflect the true value of the resources and discourage their overexploitation. Make the licences fully tradeable among boat owners.
h. The annual licencing fees would become the primary source of revenue from the sector. In consonance with this measure, the following additional fiscal reforms would be made:
- The export tax would be phased out. It creates disincentives for an important activity and encourages evasion.
- Consideration would be given to a tax per voyage of industrial ships, a measure that would be easier to enforce than a tax per ton of product landed. The vessel licencing fees in effect represent the price of entry into the common-resource industry, and the fees per voyage represent a tax on the level of fishing effort per se. The latter would be adjusted annually on the basis of information on the health of stocks of the main species. Recent experience in Australia has shown that these two fiscal measures together constitute an effective approach to controlling the level of exploitation of the species.
i. Rationalise the prawn trawler fleet by reducing the number of prawn trawler licences from the present level of 100 to 80, and conduct studies of the resource base to determine if further reductions are needed at intervals of three years. In years when the number of authorised licences is to be lowered, allocate the reduced number by means of an auction, in which the highest bidders would receive licences subject to their payment of the fee in addition to the amount bid at the auction.
j. Introduce the same limited-entry approach for the trawler fleet for demersal finfish, after reviewing existing information to determine the appropriate size of the fleet considering the stocks of the resource.
k. Introduce mesh size and gear regulations for finfish trawling, to reduce the catch of juveniles.
l. Carry out a study of ways to utilise the shrimp by-catch better, and publicise its results for the benefit and encouragement of investors in the industry.
m. An economic study of the industrial fishery would be undertaken to facilitate the establishment of an economic data base for use in bio-economic modeling and the ongoing determination of suitable licence and voyage fees.
n. For large pelagic fisheries, facilitating joint ventures would encourage commercial investment, particularly for the deep slope fishery, in order to promote technology transfer to local fishermen. However, the model based on factory ships ("mother ships") will not be pursued, because experience has shown that it does not bring significant benefits to the host country but rather to the country of origin of those large ships, and it diminishes the amount of exploitable resource left available to local fishermen.
o. Given the highly migratory nature of the larger tunas and related species, management linkages with international regulatory bodies such as ICCAT will be developed, in order to access vital information to manage the fishery properly.
p. Regulations (licences, data requirements, restrictions on gear and mesh sizes, etc.) would be addressed for the pelagic fishery.
2. Artisanal Fishery
Artisanal fisheries also need to deal with the reality that their catches of some species are declining due to overexploitation, and at the same time improve the quality of their product so that they can command higher prices and penetrate wider export markets. This is an open-entry industry, as it is in most other countries, so the required controls on levels of harvesting need to be achieved by consensus with the fishing communities and implemented through mechanisms such as regulations on gear and closed seasons, rather than through limits on the number of vessels. Training of captains and crews also is required. It should be fully communicated to artisanal fishermen that any short-term sacrifices that arise from controls on gear will be compensated over the medium term with higher yields and that they would be beneficiaries in substantial degree from the restrictions placed on trawlers' movements.
Quality improvements can best be attained by increasing the capacity for production of ice and installing cold storage facilities in the fishports, and by training crews and processors in appropriate handling of fish. Linkages with industrial processors can be improved. These initiatives are discussed in the subsection on processing and marketing below.
The main policies for the artisanal sub-sector are the following:
a. The registration and licencing of vessels would be made complete, and gear should be registered as well, by type. These actions can be carried out largely through collaboration with the Fishermen's Cooperatives.
b. The GNCB will be urged to open credit lines for fishermen who are not owners of their boats and wish to purchase them. Discussions will be held with the micro-enterprise programmes of Scotia Bank and IPED toward the same aim.
c. Controls will be established over Chinese seines, which are the most damaging nets to juveniles, by registering all of them and phasing down the number that are permitted. Concomitantly, closed grounds and seasons will be established for Chinese seines.
d. Minimum mesh sizes will be established and enforced for pin seines, drift nets, and nearshore nylon gill nets. Use of such nets will be restricted to specified fishing grounds, perhaps on a rotating basis after adequate study of the options is carried out. Hook sizes of Cadell lines will be regulated to ensure that only larger sizes of fish are targeted.
e. Depending on the results of scientific studies, over the medium term measures may also be instituted to reduce the number of pin seines.
f. Strengthened mechanisms will be established for dialogue with artisanal fishermen on sustainable management issues, emphasising the role of the Fishermen's Cooperatives in such a dialogue.
g. Limits would be placed on landings of shark and possibly mackerel, their levels to be established as a result of scientific studies of the resource.
h. A mangrove protection and management plan will be reviewed with the concerned coastal communities, modified as necessary, and implemented with their cooperation.
3. Monitoring and Surveillance
The artisanal fishermen are legitimately concerned about the hijacking of engines, fuel and catch at sea, while for the industrial fishermen the main problem of this nature is the unauthorised and illegal sale of catch over the side, at sea.
Integrated systems for monitoring, control, and surveillance in the Fishery Zone will be developed. A clear separation of fisheries management and development functions from surveillance and enforcement will encourage more positive and constructive relations between the industry and fisheries' managers.
The Coast Guard currently has experienced and qualified personnel able to undertake marine and shore-based surveillance and enforcement operations, given some specialised training, improved equipment and expanded operating budgets. In contrast, the Department of Fisheries has no fleet, no operational personnel in this area, and no budgetary resources to provide this service.
Given limited resources, it is a reasonable solution for the Government to operate one marine surveillance and enforcement fleet, and the Coast Guard is clearly the only agency in a position to provide all these services. Therefore:
a. Steps will be taken to implement the Coast Guard's Development Plan for provision of adequate staff, equipment and other support for supplying of these services in the offshore, inshore and inland fishing zones.
b. A Fisheries Surveillance and Enforcement Coordinating Committee will be established with suitable representatives of the Department of Fisheries, the Coast Guard, the Guyana Defence Force, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Customs and Excise Department, and the Marine Police. This Committee will plan, supervise and evaluate surveillance and enforcement operations, plan and coordinate the development of required legislation and regulations, and oversee the generation of adequate operational budgets for fisheries surveillance and enforcement operations through interdepartmental cooperation and sharing of resources.
4. Post-harvest Management (Processing and Marketing)
As discussed in earlier sections of this chapter, improvements in processing and marketing will be the most efficacious means of unlocking the sector's growth potential. The following measures will be undertaken as matters of priority:
a. The recommendations for quality control and improvement of the Bentink Report will be implemented. The Department of Fisheries will establish a timetable for that purpose and monitor progress.
b. A feasibility study of fish meal processing and marketing, both domestically and internationally, will be carried out and its results made available to the interested public. If such an operation proved economic feasibility, it would be one important way to reduce the waste of by-catch.
c. Investment in cold storage facilities for the operating fishport complexes will be assured. If necessary, approaches will be made to international donors for this purpose.
d. Ice-making capacities will be similarly enhanced in the Fishermen's Cooperatives.
e. Access to freehold land for cottage processing facilities will be improved in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
f. Procedures for approvals and licencing of processing plants will be simplified and speeded up.
g. A national export quality control system will be established with effective inspection and enforcement.
h. Rules and procedures for export of fish products will be simplified.
i. Market intelligence services for the fishing industry will be expanded.
j. Spoilage will be reduced by prescribing a maximum allowable number of days at sea.
k. Training in proper handling of fish for quality control will be provided to crews, onshore handlers, cottage processors, and marketing agents.
l. Trade missions will be undertaken to selected export markets, including for ornamental fish.
5. Inland Fishery
This fishery needs basic measures in respect of simple methods of processing, more sustainable harvesting techniques, and protection of habitats from degradation. The main concern is to increase the quality and value of the fishery product extracted, ensure that harvests are sustainable, and to tap into new potentials in the areas of sports fishery activities and breeding ornamental fish for export.
a. Methods of preservation such as salting and smoking would be demonstrated in the rural floodplain and hinterland areas, to preserve fish during a glut for the leaner periods, with priority given to Amerindian communities.
b. Mechanisms of dialogue will be developed with principal fishing communities in the hinterland, so that they can participate in the development of operational plans for eliminating the use of explosives and poisons in fish harvesting, and for enforcing regulations on minimum mesh sizes in nets. NGOs can assist in these efforts and the rural women's networks should be utilised to the fullest in this undertaking.
c. A comprehensive assessment of inland fish resources and habitat will be carried out.
d. With the assistance of national and international NGOs, and the Amerindian Studies Unit at the University of Guyana, a survey will be carried out of Amerindian involvement in fishing and the respective problems and prospects.
e. A feasibility study for the development of a sport and recreational fishery in inland waters, in linkage to an overall development strategy for ecotourism, will be carried out.
f. A joint commission will be formed with representatives of the Department of Fisheries, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Amerindian leaders, and concerned NGOs, tasked to develop recommendations for controlling and mitigating the impact of mining on inland fish habitats, referring in particular but not exclusively to the effects of missile dredges and alumina wastes. The report of this commission will be issued to the Office of the Prime Minister for final review and development of an implementation programme.
g. The Fisheries Department would seek to encourage exporters of ornamental fish to conduct research into breeding selected species of ornamental fish in captivity. This would be done by providing technical assistance by way of foreign agencies possessing such expertise.
Aquaculture is the sub-sector of fisheries with the greatest potential for expansion of production, creation of employment and generation of foreign exchange earnings. Very significant potential exists in both freshwater and brackish water aquaculture activities.
As for freshwater aquaculture, tilapia was introduced to Guyana as early as the late 1940s, and the culture of the species went through a period of growth until 1990 but subsequently declined due to a lack of incentives and insufficient transfer of technology to sustain the production capacity of the cultured species. Introduction of the appropriate technology in Jamaica in 1977 took the tilapia culture industry from 16 tonnes in 1979 to 3,000 tonnes in 1989, valued at US$8.4 million and produced in 160 ponds. The activity continues to grow. Guyana's climate is equally favourable for year-round production.
The few currently operating tilapia culture facilities in Guyana are producing only 20 tonnes from 20 ha of ponds and employ perhaps 20 Guyanese. With a transfer of technology, a propitious policy environment, and entrepreneurship, it is conceivable that by the year 2004 Guyana could have 500 ha of ponds producing 2,500 mt of freshwater finfish annually, for the local market. This would imply approximately 100 freshwater farms and employment of about 1,000 Guyanese.
The only brackish water aquaculture currently being undertaken in Guyana consists of the operations along the Corentyne Coast. Those operations are extensive in nature and rely on natural tidal flow and wild post larval shrimp and inputs of water and seed. The total area under production has increased form 400 hectares in 1987 to 840 ha in 1994; however, the production of shrimp from this area increased only marginally from 91 to 129 tonnes over that period. Yields obtained from the operations are low at only 0.2 mt per hectare per year.
Ecuador, Peru and Panama produced more than 80,000 mt of cultured shrimp in 1990 (of P. vannamei). Shrimp cultivation has developed more slowly in the Caribbean but the Dominican Republic produced 241 mt in 1988 and Cuba harvested 570 mt in that year, with a yield per hectare five times that of Guyana. The species used in Cuba is P. schmitti, the one that occurs along the Corentyne Coast. Belize and Venezuela have recently entered the marine shrimp culture industry.
A sustainable intensification of brackish water aquaculture in Guyana can only occur if the seed for the operations comes from a hatchery as opposed to a collection process from the wild. Of the 725 square miles of coastline surveyed in 1990 by the Department of Fisheries, 284 square miles were found to be suitable for brackish water aquaculture. If only a portion of this area is developed in a semi-intensive way, the potential for success is excellent. By the year 2004 it is conceivable that 2,000 hectares will be in semi-intensive operation, producing 4,000 mt of cultured shrimp from 200 farms and employing 2,000 Guyanese.
Among other benefits, expansion of freshwater and brackish water aquaculture will provide alternative sources of employment for artisanal and industrial fishermen who are affected by the decline in natural stocks of prawns and other species.
Policies to promote the fulfillment of these prospects include the following:
a. The drafting of a comprehensive sub-sectoral policy that deals with rights to land and foreshore resources, defines the role of the State and the private sector, and establishes regulations governing quality control and management of the environment.
b. Policy also will encourage joint ventures involving overseas and national firms. Here, the foreign firm would provide the appropriate technology and access to overseas markets while the local firm would provide land, access to water and labour, capital to cover local costs and access to local markets.
c. Suitable areas of land for the conduct of aquaculture activities will be identified, and arrangements will be made for that land to be held in freehold or 99-year transferable leases.
d. Guyana would also seek to join the Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPESCAL). Membership in that body would put Guyana in a position to share in and benefit from the experiences of other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
e. Two National Aquaculture Research Stations will be constructed, one a Freshwater culture Research Centre in Region 4, possibly at Mon Repos, and the other a Brackish water Fish and Shrimp Research Centre on a site still to be identified.
f. Demonstration farms for both freshwater and brackish water culture will be established, both to improve deficiencies in technology transfer and to enhance the capacity of the Department of Fisheries to provide extension services.
g. Research priorities in this field will concern system intensification, water quality management and fish diseases.
h. The capacities of the extension services unit of the Department of Fisheries would be increased to include the delivery of fingerlings to interested parties as well as advising on various aspects of aquaculture. A special extension subunit will be created to work with Amerindian communities in both freshwater culture (in the hinterland) and brackish water culture (in the North West).
7. Institutional Strengthening
It is evident from the foregoing that the fisheries sector is of sufficient importance and future potential that it requires vastly strengthened public sector management. The restructuring that the sector will be undergoing reinforces this need. The principal functions that the public sector should carry out for adequate fisheries management include the following:
- policy development
- programme development
- coordination with public institutions and with the private sector
- the building of public awareness and education
- programme implementation
- monitoring and surveillance
- execution of measures to ensure compliance
- information collection and management
- analysis of sector issues and developments
- liaison with counterpart bodies in other countries and international organisations
At present, the Department of Fisheries not only has a large number of vacancies in key positions but it also has staff that is undertrained and underqualified in view of the duties they are asked to carry out, inadequate office space, and insufficient facilities for data management, libraries and laboratories, and in addition it lacks the necessary means of transportation for the staff to service the sector.
To overcome these deficiencies and help the sector to fulfill its potential as envisaged in this National Development Strategy, the Department of Fisheries will be reorganised and reinstituted as an autonomous Guyana National Fisheries Commission, which will be institutionally parallel to the Guyana Forestry Commission. Now the latter is able to offer suitable benefits packages for professionals and is constrained only by revenue considerations.
One of the principal advantages of the Guyana National Fisheries Commission is that it will have more flexibility with respect to wages and salaries for staff and would be able to put in place incentive programmes tied to staff performance. Also, it would be authorised to receive grants from international agencies and to collect directly and utilise revenues arising from fines imposed for non-compliance with regulations in the sector. However, it would not be authorised to receive directly other fees, for that would lead to a situation of conflict of interest. To cite a hypothetical example, if the new Commission were given powers to utilise fees collected from the industry, it could turn out to be in its interest to promote increases in trawling activity, which would generate more revenues in the short run through fees, rather than to restrict the activity, which may be essential to avoid depleting stocks.
The Board of Directors for the Commission would be a Fisheries Advisory Board, constituted approximately as follows:
- A representative of the Minister of Agriculture
- The Permanent Secretary of Agriculture
- A representative of the Minister of Finance
- A representative of the Coast Guard
- A representative of the Ministry of Health
- A representative of the Environmental Protection Agency
- A representative of the Bureau of Statistics
- Two representatives of Fishermen's Cooperatives
- A representative of the industrial processors
- A representative of the cottage producers
- A representative of the small exporters
- An Amerindian representative
The Chief Fisheries Officer is not placed on the Board, precisely because the Board's role is to supervise the work of the Fisheries Commission, and being on the supervising board would be inconsistent for a member of the supervised entity.
Along with this measure, the Central Government will undertake to increase the funding for the fisheries management institution by a factor of ten-fold by the year 2000, which still would imply a net outlay of less than one-eighth of the governmental revenues generated by the sector.
Taken together, these measures will put in place institutional arrangements that are appropriate for guiding the future development of a dynamic and complex sector.
8. Public Sector Holdings in Fisheries
The problems associated with the public sector holdings in fisheries were described in an earlier section of this chapter. A decision was made to divest those holdings, and what remains is to deal with certain problems that arose in the divestment of one of those holdings and proceeding with the disposal of the other one.
Some assets of Guyana Fisheries Limited were leased to Marine Food Product Limited, and the latter has not been making payments on the lease recently, arguing that the original agreement is flawed and should be renegotiated. If a reasonable agreement cannot be reached soon, then those assets will be put up for sale at a public auction.
The State's shares in the Guyana Libya Fishing Company will be put up for auction as well, with the understanding that the State will assume the existing international debt. If no buyer is found, the company will be liquidated.
The costs of rehabilitating the Houston Complex will be estimated. In the event that the present renters do not agree to increase the rent to cover those costs, plus continued maintenance, then this asset also will be put up for sale.
These assets play a marginal role in the sector and the Government perceives no gain from continuing to underwrite the financial losses associated with their continuance in the present form. Rather, it will focus its efforts and resources on strengthening the management of the sector in the ways outlined throughout this chapter.
9. Other Policies
a. The Government will promote initiatives with the Governments of Venezuela, Suriname, Cayenne (French Guiana), and Brazil to manage the fishing effort on transboundary stocks jointly.
b. Certificate programme in fisheries management and quality assurance will be initiated at the University of Guyana.
c. The Department of Fisheries will develop a programme, jointly with GNCB, Scotia Bank and IPED in order to expand access to credit for women engaged in fisheries production and marketing.
d. The Department of Fisheries will develop a programme, and oversee its implementation, for the improvement of working conditions for women in fish processing plants and markets.
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To date, the fisheries policy and regulations of Guyana have been guided by the provisions of the Fisheries Act of 1957, the Fisheries Regulations of 1959, the Fisheries (Pin Seine) Regulations of 1962, the Fisheries (Aquatic Wild Life Control) Regulation of 1966, and the Maritime Boundaries Act of 1977. Neither the Fisheries Act nor the Fisheries Regulations have been updated since they were first passed by Parliament in the late 1950s. They contain no provision for dealing with declining fish stocks, management of aquaculture fisheries, new fishing technologies, etc.
In 1986, the Government of Guyana, through the Department of Fisheries, sought the assistance of FAO to help in drafting a new Fisheries Act and Regulations updating the existing provisions in line with the realities of fisheries in Guyana in the late twentieth century. FAO did provide some initial assistance with the first draft but this was never completed. On request from the Government of Guyana, FAO is to implement in the very near future a project to complete the drafting of the Act and Regulations for consideration and approval by the Ministry of Agriculture and Parliament. That drafting should undertake to provide the legal framework for fisheries policies as set out in this National Development Strategy.
The new legislation would influence on the entire fisheries subsector (marine, inland, and aquaculture) and would deal with such areas as:
- Licensing and limiting trawlers
- Licensing and limiting gear and regulating mesh sizes
- Closed seasons and grounds
- Quality assurance procedures and controls
- Fisheries Management and Development Plan
- Fisheries Advisory Committee
- Establishment of the Guyana National Fisheries Commission
- Regional cooperation in fisheries
- Fisheries access agreements
- Foreign as well as local fishing licences
- Fisheries research
- Ornamental fish export
- Surveillance and monitoring
- Fines for failure to comply with regulations
Guyana has played a role in the development of fisheries worldwide as it was the sixtieth signatory to the 1983 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) that brought the convention into force. However, Guyana has not capitalized on its rights and privileges under the Convention as it has lacked the institutional capability to provide the monitoring, control, and surveillance necessary and the resource assessment capability to protect diligently its marine resources from overexploitation through proper conservation and management measures. Guyana does not currently have the data to determine its total allowable catch and thus should be extremely cautious about negotiating access by other States to fish the surplus (if any exists) until this is known.
Although Guyana has had joint fishery agreements in the past with foreign fishing fleets, including Cuba, Barbados, Jamaica, the USSR, the German Democratic Republic, and other countries, all are nonfunctional because they have expired or were never activated. Given the current lack of information on the resource and thus, Guyana's violation of the terms of UNCLOS, this is probably a blessing although data suggest that there is active illegal fishing at the present time by several countries, most notably Venezuela and Suriname.
The new regulation should make provision for addressing the international accords of UNCLOS III, Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas, International Cooperation in the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing.
1. 0This chapter draws extensively on the following three previous studies:
i) Guyana Department of Fisheries and GTA Consultants, Inc., in association with Agrodev Canada, Inc., National Fisheries Management and Development Plan, draft, Georgetown, March, 1995.
ii) Ministry of Agriculture, The National Fisheries Policy of the Government of Guyana, Georgetown, March, 1995.
iii) Terrence C. Phillips, "The Fisheries Sub-Sector of Guyana," ch. 5 in Review of the Agricultural Sector of Guyana: Volume 2, Technical Presentations, Ministry of Agriculture and IICA, Georgetown, December, 1993.
2. 0Agrodev Canada Inc., Preliminary Report on the Fisheries and Aquaculture Potential of Region 2, Guyana, prepared for IICA/Guyana, November, 1994.
3. 0 This conclusion is reached in I. Nwike, "Assessment of the Effects of the Artisanal Fisheries Programme," report prepared for the Monitoring and Evaluation Section, Planning Division, Ministry of Agriculture, 1993.