Guyana, Suriname Foreign Ministers to hammer out delayed issuance of fishing licences

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The issuance of much-needed fishing licences to Guyanese fishermen continues to be delayed despite Suriname’s promise but Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that the Foreign Ministers of both countries will soon meet to iron out the issue.

Suriname had agreed to issue some 150 SK fishing licences to Guyanese fisherfolk by January 2022. These SK licences are granted to vessels with a Suriname Coast (Surinaamse Kust) to fish in the offshore zone along the breadth of the coast of Suriname.

Based on media reports in the neighbouring country, however, the Surinamese government has faced some pushback from private sector players, and concerns from opposition members.

Hours after Guyana’s Government issued a strong statement urging its Surinamese counterpart to issue those promised licences so that fishermen can safely ply their trade, President Ali told reporters that there has been some forward movement on the matter.

“That matter is being resolved as I speak to you.

“We have agreed that a high-level meeting will take place in the next two weeks… not only current issues but the licences itself and how we address that in the long term,” the Guyanese Head of State said at the sidelines of an event on Wednesday.

He later said that the two Foreign Ministers, Guyana’s Hugh Todd and Suriname’s Albert Ramdin, will meet and lead these discussions.

Surinamese authorities have claimed that several licences were granted to Guyanese fisherfolk but this is yet to be verified and it is expected to form part of the discussions between the two ministers.

Importantly, the President hinted at continued pushback from the Surinamese private sector. To this end, he said that he made personal calls to key players in the private sector, seeking equal and fair treatment.

During a recent visit to Suriname, the News Room spoke to Udo Karg, the President of the Suriname Seafood Association (SSA), who was keen on registering his opposition to the distribution of these licences.

His opposition to the granting of these licenses doesn’t only stem from Surinamese law – which prohibits issuing licences to non-Surinamese – but he is concerned about overfishing, like many other stakeholders in the Surinamese fishing industry.

But the country’s Foreign Minister told the News Room then that these fishing licenses are no hindrance to “strategic” Guyana/ Suriname relations. He, however, acknowledged that there are some “complicated issues” surrounding the licenses.

It was previously reported that Guyanese fishermen operating along the Corentyne have to pay some US$3,000 (about GY $630,000) to fish under an illegal arrangement with a licensed fishing company in Suriname.

And 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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