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Opening Ceremony –

Fourteenth Meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum

Hon. Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture

Ramada Georgetown Princess, Guyana

7- 8 April 2016

Mr. Chairperson, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to be asked to address you at this fourteenth meeting of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum and to have the opportunity to share some thoughts on fisheries as you prepare recommendations on the way forward for the Ministerial Council in May.

Let me join with the members of the Head table and welcome you to Guyana. I trust you will take some time off to experience the beauty of our hinterland. Let me also invite you to return in May to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as an independent nation. I am happy to be here to register my commitment and assure you of my government’s increased attention and efforts to take this industry forward.

The Fisheries sector plays an important direct role in national food security. It is well known that fish has a highly desirable nutrient profile and provides an excellent source of quality animal protein. Globally fish contributes some 16 percent of the total animal protein intake.

In the Caribbean, the fisheries and aquaculture sector is a major economic contributor to domestic markets, almost US$420 million in 2014. It is also a significant employer with about 116,000 persons directly employed and over 225,000 indirectly employed. 

We here in Guyana can boast that the fisheries sub sector contributes about 9.4% to agriculture GDP; it collects about GY$30.7 Million in revenue from fees from licenses; and it adds GY$15 Billion (or approximately US$75 million) annually to the foreign currency earnings through exports. Furthermore, the fishing industry employs approximately 15,000 people with 4,000 to 5,600 persons being directly employed in fishing, with many more benefiting indirectly through fishing related industries.

With the increasing health awareness globally and fish and fisheries products known for their health benefits, the demand is increasing and global marine production is being pressured to supply this demand with Aquaculture production contributing also.

It is our duty to supply wholesome fish and fish products to meet this demand; however we must ensure that it is done in a sustainable way so that future generations can enjoy the same benefits we now have.

We in Guyana are committed to the sustainable management and advancement of the sector, and we are committed to working with our partners to ensure that we fish responsibly and practice sustainable fishing practices. Some of our initiatives include:

  • The introduction of a Harvest Control rule where Trawlers are allowed to fish for only a certain amount of days annually
  • The installation of By catch reduction devices and Turtle exclusion devices on all trawlers
  • Use of Vessel Monitoring Systems on the trawling fleet so that they can be monitored on a 24 hrs basis.
  • The formation of a Seabob Working Group, which comprises members of the Fisheries Department and stakeholders from the Trawler Association. This group is working together to attain the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the Seabob industry.

We will be increasing our Monitoring Control and Surveillance of our Artisanal vessels to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules and regulations as indicated in the Fisheries Act of 2002. With this move we hope to reduce accidents and robbery at sea and we will be working along with the Coast Guard in patrolling our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

Apart from the dwindling marine resources, the sector faces other challenges which I am sure are common to the Region. Adverse climatic conditions and the increasing presence of seaweed, hampers the fisherfolk’s ability to fish or make it more dangerous to ply their trade. Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and robbery at sea also pose serious challenges.

I am happy that the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy (CCCFP) is authorized for implementation. This policy, I believe, is aimed at fostering greater harmonization across the Caribbean in the sustainable management and development of the region’s fisheries and aquaculture resources, with special emphasis on promoting the most efficient use of shared resources, while aiming to improve food security and reducing poverty in the region.

As I mentioned before, our capture fisheries sub-sector is undergoing some serious challenges and we need to find an alternative to fill the gap. Therefore, we must look at the role of aquaculture in filling the global fish supply-demand gap and so reduce the pressure on capture fisheries. Production of fish from aquaculture has exploded in the past 20 years and continues to expand around the world. However, in Guyana, like many other CRFM members, aquaculture is proving to be struggling to take off commercially, because of numerous challenges, such as the high cost of imported feed and other inputs such as fingerling production. Also, the presence of non-tariff barriers in entering countries even within the CARICOM member states continue to hamper progress, as we know it is demand that develops any industry.

Chief Fisheries Officers, we need to work together as a region to ensure the success of Aquaculture, as it will become increasingly necessary as a substitute for seafood as we realize that our marine resources are finite.

Aquaculture must meet this increased demand. As prices for most food commodities fall, fish prices are expected to rise. International projections show that developing countries will consume and produce a much greater share of the world’s fish in the future, and trade in fish commodities will also increase. We must capitalize on this.

We in the Caribbean need to ensure small producers are not excluded from rapidly growing export markets. We need to find cost effective ways to produce (to reduce cost of production) and to facilitate affordable certification of food safety and environmentally sound production.

As aquaculture expands, especially in developing countries, environmental concerns will only increase with time unless technologies and policies promote sustainable intensification. Investments in R&D must be a priority.

I am happy to report that Guyana has acceded to the Port State Measures agreement and we will benefit from some training in this aspect from FAO in the coming week. I urge the FAO to continue and strengthen its work to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and I implore all countries here to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement.

In conclusion, while we have established some fundamental building blocks, there is more detailed planning required, especially as it relates to aquaculture and small scale fisheries. As you deliberate during your meeting, look at key areas that should receive closer attention in future work—such as sourcing of alternative feedstock, which could be significant game changers in the industry as it evolves over the next decade.

Guyana is strongly committed to working with the CRFM, FAO and other international and regional organizations to tackle the issues at stake. We need to build on lessons learnt from past experiences; to enhance our knowledge on what works under what conditions and what is required to achieve our objectives. This fourteenth meeting provides an excellent opportunity to address and deliver these recommendations and decisions to the Ministerial Council.

Thank you.

NLH

7 April 2016

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