By Kurt Campbell
Expressing concern with reports of illegal fishing offshore Guyana, United States Ambassador, Sarah Ann Lynch on Wednesday travelled to Corriverton, Region Six (East-Berbice Corentyne) where she met with fishermen and members of the business community on a range of issues.
Those issues included, but were not limited to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; the current ban on the export of catfish to the United States; licensing woes of small scale fishermen in the region, governance and security.
During a media engagement Wednesday afternoon at City Inn Hotel, Line Path, Corriverton, with President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Krishnand Jaichand, Ambassador Lynch empathetically expressed concern on the matters raised during her meeting with the Upper-Corentyne Fishermen Co-op.
On the issue of illegal fishing, the American Diplomat said Guyana and the United States continue to work through the bilateral agreements the two countries signed to offer joint patrols and training in this area.
Referring to a ship rider agreement that was ratified, the Ambassador said the United States will continue to support Guyana in going after an illegal trade that robs the country of much-needed resources.
“There is a new administration in the United States. The Biden administration is concerned with climate change… the issue of illegal fishing impacts the environment and global economies… money is taken out of fisherfolk pockets and going where it shouldn’t go… I’m told there is at least 10,000 fisherfolk in Guyana so this is important,” the US Ambassador said.
Commenting on the instances of illegal fishing currently, Ambassador Lynch said she was informed that “the catch is down”; this has reduced fishing at this time. She said, as a consequence, there were no recent reports of illegal fishing.
The Ambassador was particularly concerned with the issue of licensing raised by the fishermen who ply their trade in waters that belong to Suriname.
Jaichand explained that currently, fishermen along the Corentyne have to pay some US$3,000 to fish under an illegal arrangement with a licensed fishing company in Suriname. He said even when the fish is caught, it has to go to Suriname first and the catch that is rejected is then sent to Guyana.
The Chamber President said he was informed that Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture has been working with the authorities in Suriname to ensure that some 150 Guyanese fishermen receive their licenses – putting an end to the current exploitative arrangement.
Turning her attention to the catfish ban that has affected fish exporters to the United States, who have been benefiting from the demand for the product in the diaspora, the Ambassador promised to look into the issue.
She said the U.S Government has been addressing it as it works directly with the local fishery authorities.
“There were some technical meetings… we have to follow certain safety and other standards… but hopefully we will get some good news soon,” she added.
Exporters of catfish were required by the US Food and Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) to provide documentation to verify that their inspection system was equivalent to US standards. The failure to do this resulted in the United States imposing a ban on catfish imports from Guyana and other non-compliant countries in September of 2017.
Ambassador Lynch, who also met with the Mayor of Corriverton, Winston Roberts, said she intends to raise the issues with the relevant government Ministries in Georgetown even as she pledged the embassy’s continued support for business and fishermen in Region Six.