The owners of the three Guyanese fishing vessels detained in neighbouring Suriname for more than a month now are pleading with local authorities to assist in ensuring the safe and speedy return of the vessels.
The owners – Emmaleeta Singh, Toshani Goordat and Ramesh Ramchand – spoke with the News Room on Monday and revealed that there are rumours the vessels were sold in Suriname.
It took Ramesh Ramchand 35 years to buy a fishing vessel after working as a fisherman for several decades.
Now, the vessel which he named ‘Amelia’ is detained in Suriname after Ramchand and two other captains were found with apparent fake fishing licenses, fishing waters claimed by the neighbouring country back in July.
The men, after being fined large sums in Suriname, returned to Guyana in August.
Ramchand said they were fishing in Suriname’s waters when the country’s coastguard approached them and asked for their fishing license.
They presented documents but were later told the licenses were fake.
“So they carry we Nickerie and lock we up for 10 days and put us on 100,000 SRD fine and I ask about the boat and they said the boat will be seized and they said that is the law over there,” Ramchand told the News Room.
Ramchand said he paid $3,700 SRD to rent the license from fishermen in Suriname.
“It not reach a year since I bought this boat and me nah done pay for it, me get family to [support].
“This what me achieve after 35 years, this is the only work me know and this affect me bad, I am not working and I have nothing to depend on,” the man related.
Singh, a mother of two, told the News Room that she bought her vessel just over a year ago. The woman said she still has to pay for the vessel and this is proving difficult since it was seized.
“Minister Mustapha, we hear from him, we go to the Foreign Affairs Minister but one month done already and we are pleading with the government to reach out to us.
The woman further said: “This is the only income I have and I mortgage my house to take out this fishing vessel and I don’t know what is going to happen.”
The owners told the News Room that they heard from persons in Suriname that the vessels were reportedly sold.
“All I hear is someone called us and told us that the boats have been sold,” Singh told the News Room.
Toshani Goordat also recently bought her fishing vessel and depended on it as her only source of income.
“I depend on that for my income presently.”
“If the boats sell and we depend on it and that is our income, we don’t have anything to do for an income now,” Goordat said.
Because of the proximity of Guyana’s Berbice county and Suriname, fishing in Surinamese waters has been ongoing for decades.
Based on Surinamese law, however, it is illegal for Guyanese fisherfolk to obtain licenses to fish there.
This licensing situation has troubled Guyanese fisherfolk for quite some time.
But what was supposed to be a resolution to this longstanding issue does not seem likely as Surinamese continue to push back granting 150 special fishing licenses to Guyanese fishermen.