Berbice fishermen complain of being harassed, extorted by Surinamese patrols

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A large group of fishermen who usually ply their trade in the Corentyne River met with Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, on Saturday last to air their frustration with the continued harassment when plying their trade in the Corentyne River.

Chairman of the Number 66 Fishermen’s Co-op Society, Pamashwar Jainarine, told Minister Mustapha that some years ago, Guyanese fishermen were issued licenses directly from Suriname.

“Over 50 years now, fishermen from Number 79 Village and Crabwood Creek fishing in the Corentyne River. We had an arrangement with Suriname where one time they gave us our own licenses. The licenses were issued to Guyanese. In 2007 the Surinamese took away the licenses, gave them to people in Nickerie who would then rent these licenses.

“It has reached a state now where they’re charging US $800 for a license which has a value of about US $25. We’re asking for the cost to be reduced,” Mr. Jainarine said.

The Chairman also informed the minister that fishermen are being harassed and extorted by certain Surinamese River patrols.

Minister Mustapha and other ministry officials during the meeting with the fishermen

“In addition to that, they’ve been harassing the fishermen. They get certain patrols, there is an individual that demands money. US $100 or even US $200 and those who pay him the money are allowed to fish while the rest are sent home.

“Any lil thing and they’re sending back the boat. Sometimes that license hasn’t even expired but they would send home the boat. We had an arrangement, sometimes they would issue the license in March, we understand March month next year the license valid for never mind it said January to December. It would say January to December but they’re giving the license in March, April, and even till June month,” Mr. Jainarine said.

Minister Mustapha told the fishermen that the government is in constant contact with the Surinamese officials on the issue.

“We’ve had a discussion not so long ago and raised a number of issues about fishing. We were of the notion that Guyanese fishermen should have users’ rights. For example, if we’re going to Orealla, we don’t have to take a pass to use the river. They did indicate that they were willing to give the fishermen licenses, both for the Corentyne River and their waters. We don’t believe our fishermen should have to get licenses to fish in the Corentyne River so we’ll continue to discuss these issues with our Surinamese counterparts.

“They had asked us to supply them with the names of those who usually rent licenses to Guyanese but because government is not the one engaging those individuals, we cannot supply them with that information,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha told the fishermen that his office will be dispatching a letter on Monday to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking the intervention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Last November, Minister Mustapha formed part of a ministerial delegation to Suriname which was led by H.E. President Irfaan Ali. Since then, the Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs have been in contact with Suriname’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries debating the issue.

Earlier in the year, Minister Mustapha disclosed that his ministry had received a correspondence that detailed the Surinamese government’s willingness to issue Guyanese fishermen with licenses soon.

This, he said, would see fishermen being able to operate comfortably in both the Corentyne River and Surinamese waters, thus eradicating the need for fishermen to pay exorbitant fees to rent licenses from the middlemen. (Ministry of Agriculture press release)

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