Agri. Minister distributes hampers to fishermen; optimistic about fishing industry
Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha on Wednesday visited the Lusignan Community on the East Coast of Demerara where he provided support in the form of hampers to fishermen who have been complaining about challenges in the industry.
Minister Mustapha assured the fishermen that the government is working on initiatives to help them during this time, noting that over 15,000 fisherfolk depend on the industry.
A few of the fishermen spoke with the News Room and expressed their frustration with low catches over the past few months. This, they explained, has significantly affected their livelihoods.
But Minister Mustapha said he is optimistic that catches will increase this season. The fishermen have been complaining about challenges in the industry such as low catches for some time now.
“Yesterday, I received a report and when you look at the catches in the sea bob industry, it has improved significantly, so I am hoping your catches also will improve,” Mustapha said.
Minister Mustapha assured the fishermen that the government is working to help the fisherfolk overcome the challenges.
“We are looking to diversify because when you look at marine fishing now, not only in Guyana but around the world, we are seeing catches are going down,” Minister Mustapha said as he explained that the low catches are a result of climate change.
The development of the aquaculture industry is on the cards for this year. A total of $743.7 million has been allocated to the fisheries sector in the 2022 National Budget. This is intended to expand fishing activities and ease the woes of local fisherfolk.
“We will work with you, this year we will be working with the marine fisherfolk to start a cage culture where we will help you all to get cages,” Mustapha said.
Specifically for this venture, $200 million was provided to develop marine cage fishing. These cages are man-made structures placed in waterways and are expected to be implemented both in the coastal and hinterland regions.
Mustapha said that based on research, one single marine cage can provide a fisherman with $8 million annually.
“We are working to get the technology to come here and we will work along with you,” Mustapha said.
Fishermen were also told that they can also diversify and do farming to supplement their income.
“For example, we want to give you a shade house to develop the crops we are talking about,” Mustapha said, noting that they will not be required to stop fishing altogether.
Sohan, a fisherman for the past 20 years, said he is now unable to provide for his family. But according to him, the low catches are not as a result of climate change but rather because they are being prevented from fishing in areas they have become accustomed to for years.
“Since ExxonMobil start to draw this oil, we nah get fish and when we do fuh catch lil fish, they got one boat name Atlantic Spirit ah come chase ya out,” Sohan revealed.
He explained that they would spend days at sea and “if fish nah catch, you only building expense.”
It costs about $90,000 for a vessel to go out to sea and according to Sohan, when they return, the fishermen only make about $40,000 with their catches.