‘Drastic action’ needed as Corentyne fishermen still face arrests, licensing woes – PSC

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It came as good news for Guyanese fishermen who ply their trade along the Corentyne River which Guyana shares with Suriname when the two Presidents announced a new licensing arrangement in August 2021.

By January 2022 some 150 fishermen from across Guyana’s Corentyne, Berbice area will be provided with fishing licenses which will be issued and paid for in Suriname.

Though seen as an improvement to the years of harassment faced and high costs paid via a third party arrangement for licenses, almost 300 more registered Guyanese fishermen from along the Corentyne will remain unlicensed.

This is according to the Vice Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Krishnand Jaichand. He was providing an update on a meeting earlier this week between Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha and dozens of fisherfolks.

Jaichand said he hopes that the licenses will be issued promptly by January 01, 2022, because that is when the current licenses expires. Any delay will likely see fishing activity in the region grinding to a halt.

But more importantly, Jaichand said the government must move quickly to address the plight now faced by an additional 250 – 300 fishermen who will not receive a license in January.

“I’m sure the government has the stats and know how many boats are registered,” he told the News Room on Wednesday. But even with these licensing discussions taking place, Jaichand said Guyanese fishermen who fish in the Corentyne River continue to face harassment at the hands of Surinamese authorities for being unlicensed.

He said as recently as two weeks ago he was forced to bring to the attention of President Irfaan Ali and the private sector the detaining of a crew of Guyanese fishermen in Suriname.

He said they were subsequently released but had their boat and engine which is worth G$600,000 seized and is now required to pay a fine of G$1.2 million.

To this end, Jaichand said drastic action is needed by the Guyanese authorities to address the situation.

“We have men who fish in Guyana’s water, let’s say those in Crab Wood Creek, they have to use the Corentyne River to come back home and if they have catches of fish it is usually hard to convince the Surinamese authorities and they are taken into lock-ups,” he explained.

“It’s an urgent issue that needs to be dealt with… it is really challenging and hard for those Corentyne fishermen who fish in the Corentyne River because they actually supply the local market and Skeldon,” he added.

During a visit to the Corentyne in April, Jaichand had explained that Guyanese fishermen operating along the Corentyne have to pay some US$3,000 to fish under an illegal third party arrangement with a licensed fishing company in Suriname.

He said then that even when the fish is caught, it has to go to Suriname first and the rejected catch is then sent to Guyana.

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