The Ministry of Agriculture had requested and received assistance for support to conduct Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) activities within Guyana’s marine fisheries sector to ensure that operators of all categories of fishing vessels are in compliance with the laws and regulations governing the sector. These activities will be supported by the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard and the Guyana Police Force Marine Branch. A meeting was held on Friday September 16, 2016 between representatives of the agencies to discuss the scope and execution of the operations. The objectives of the activities are;
- To reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities
- To increase the number of vessels licenced on an annual basis
- To ensure that the industrial fleet is in compliance with the necessary regulations and
- To gather the information that would be useful in the fight against piracy.
Guyana’s marine fisheries sector fishing fleet is divided into three main sub-categories namely the industrial, the semi-industrial and the artisanal fishing fleets.
The industrial fishing vessels are trawler type vessels that target prawn (Farfantepenaeus brasiliensis, F. subtilis and F. notialis)) and seabob shrimp (Xiphopenaeus kroyeri) as the main species and finfish as by catch. All trawler type vessels are required by regulations to have their vessels fitted with turtle Excluder Devices and By-catch Reduction Devices. The seabob vessels operations are limited to fishing grounds between the seven to eighteen fathom depth contours while the prawns vessels are permitted to operate above the eighteen fathom depth contour. Currently, the seabob fleet is engaged in its annual closed season and only vessels engaged in research are permitted to be in the fishing zone. The closed season commenced on August 31 and will reopen on October 20, 2016.
The semi-industrial fleet target mainly the pelagic species such as red snapper (Lutjanus purpureus) and grouper (Epinephelus spp.) and comprise of a local fleet of fifty eight registered vessels that utilise traps to capture the species and twenty Venezuelan vessels that are licence to a local company. The Venezuelan vessels utilise hook and line to capture their species.
The artisanal fleet comprise of locally constructed wooden vessels and an artisanal frame (boat count) survey conducted in 2011 estimated that approximately one thousand, two hundred and thirty-four (1,234) vessels were in operation. A perusal of the Fisheries Department records have however indicated that these numbers have since increased and it is estimated that in excess of fifteen hundred (1,500) of these types of vessels are in operation. These types of vessels are separated into Chinese seine (a type of fyke seine), Gillnets (nylon, cabin cruisers and inboard), Caddell and Pin and Tie seines. These vessels target mainly the ground fish species such as bangamary (Macrodon ancylodon), trout (Cynoscion virescens), grey snapper (Cynoscion acoupa), cuirass (Sciades (Arius) proops), gillbaker (Sciades parkeri) and butter fish (Nebris microps).
While the 100% of the industrial fleet is licenced on an annual basis, only thirty five (35) or (60%) of the fifty eight (58) the semi-industrial vessels on the register are licenced annually. The MCS operations will seek to verify these figures and remove non-operational vessels from the register. Of the estimated one thousand, five hundred (1,500) artisanal vessels in operation, approximately four hundred and fifty (450) or 30% of these vessels are licenced annually.
As the stated in the objectives, the upcoming operations, personnel from the Fisheries Department, the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard and the Guyana Police Force Coast Guard will be visiting landing sites throughout the coast as well as conducting at sea stops and inspections to ensure that all operators of fishing vessels within the marine fisheries sector are in compliance with the laws of Guyana.
Part III, section 9 (1) of the Fisheries Act “Registration of Fishing Vessels Local and Foreign” states “After thirty days from the commencement of this Act every owner of a local fishing vessel which is used or intended to be used or intended to be used for fishing in the fisheries waters, shall, before such vessel is put to sea, be the holder of a valid certificate of registration in respect of such fishing vessel.” While Part IV Section 13 (1) Local Fish Licence states “No local fishing vessel shall be used for fishing or related activities in the fisheries waters without a valid licence issued under this section in respect of that vessel.”
It is hope that defaulters will make every effort to ensure that they are in compliance with the laws governing their fishing operations failing which they will be prosecuted for non-compliance.