More steps taken to organize Guyana’s fisherfolk

as GNFO re-launched

Today officials from the Guyana National Fisherfolk Organization (GNFO) hosted their second national election.

Representatives from the Upper Corentyne Fisherman Coop Society, Rosignol Fishermen’s Coop, Albion Landing Site, Tree Door Fishermen Coop, D’Edward Fishermen Coop, Parika Fisherman Coop, Lima’s Fishers’ Association, and the Greater Georgetown Fisherman’s Coop attended the exercise which was held today in the main boardroom at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that government was encouraging fisherfolk to be more cognizant of their responsibility to Guyana’s economic development.

Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha

“This election of the Guyana National Fisherfolk’s Organization is happening at an opportune time when the Ministry of Agriculture and the government are encouraging our fisherfolk to become more aware of their role and responsibility, as well as your participatory approach in the fisheries management process. When we look at the contribution of this sector to our country’s GDP it is tremendous. Our manifesto speaks to enhance support to fisherfolks and coop societies,” Minister Mustapha said

The subject Minister also said that his Ministry is working to address several issues faced by fisherfolk as it relates to piracy and the granting of licences to Guyanese fishermen to fish in Surinam waters.

“This year we’ve allocated large sums of money to develop the fishing industry. We’ve also acquired a fisheries monitoring vessel so that we can execute patrolling operations to protect our exclusive economic zone. We also recognize that our fisherfolks are severely affected by piracy. Only today I received reports of a recent attack on one of our fishing vessels by armed Venezuelans. We are now taking the necessary steps to procure equipment and recruit capable personnel to commence patrolling our Coast. Government has also been working with our counterparts overseas to regularize the fishing industry. For example, with fisherfolks on the Corentyne, they have to depend on middle-men from Suriname who are charging exorbitant fees to get licences. Following a State visit last November, myself and the Minister of Agriculture in Suriname have been discussing ways to have our fishermen licenced to fish in the Surinamese water,” Minister Mustapha said.

A section of those in attendance

Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton said that coops were established to serve the community and soon his Ministry will be putting the necessary systems in place to ensure that was done.

Honourable Joseph Hamilton

“Whatever you produce in a Coop, whether it be fish or coops, what might determine how much markets you get or how much profits you get, might be as simple as putting it in a plastic bag. Everything I know suggests to me that Cooperative Societies have to periodically retool, remodel and modernize themselves. In order to be able to do that, I’ve instructed that the Ministry’s Coop Department conduct an integrity audit of all Coop Societies in this country. We’ve advertised for auditors and 11 companies have shown interest so shortly we’ll have that audit done. It is not an ordinary annual audit. I want to know every aspect of the society. I’m told that presently we have 512 on the books. My assessment, after the audit, will determine who lives and who dies because a coop can only live to serve the community. That is what it was created for,” Minister Hamilton said.  

Similar to the Guyana Rice Producers Association, the GNFO was officially formed in 2008 as an umbrella body to unite fisherfolk in Guyana. Preliminary works were done but the organization subsequently became dormant.

GNFO Chairman Pamashwar Jainarine

Chairman of the GNFO, Pamashwar Jainarine said that the organization is functioning but not as effective as it should. He also outlined several issues faced by the organization in the past.

“Some of the issues faced when the organization was resuscitated in 2015 are the same issues we face now. These include inadequate boarding facilities, run-down wharfs, bad roads leading to some of the landing sites, lack of trained personnel managing the landing sites, poor markets and prices for our catch, and payment of VAT on items that were made to no longer attract VAT. The GNFO members couldn’t deal with the issues. They were under the thought process that the former Minister of Agriculture would’ve assisted and after seeing that nothing was being done, they became frustrated and stopped attending meetings. We are functioning but not as we’d like. This is why we’ve embarked on a nationwide scoping exercise to bring more landing sites, or what we would say ‘the primary fisherfolk organizations’ into the GNFO,” Mr. Jainarine said.

Minister Mustapha said that government was working to ensure measures put in place to benefit fisherfolk were enforced. He noted that in the instance of VAT being charged for equipment for the fisheries sector and the agriculture sector in general, the Guyana Revenue Authority has been ordered to go after businesses that are yet to readjust their prices to reflect those reductions.

The Minister also said that his Ministry will be working to address some of the issues faced by the GNFO, such as inadequate facilities and better prices and markets for fish and other seafood

Mr. Vishnu Persaud and Mr. Veeram Ramsarran were among those elected today to serve on the GNFO.