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He told a press conference at the Ministry that this expansion will come after the completion of five earthen ponds that are under construction.
Giving a background to the aquaculture industry, Geer said that new species were not introduced to local farmers in the early 1990s and that those of the 1940s have been unsuitable for the expanding aquaculture industry.
He said that in 1998 the Ministry introduced the red tilapia species and subsequent to that saw the introduction of fresh water prawns.
Geer pointed out that the Ministry is seeing an increase in agriculture production and that a lot of farmers are getting involved in red tilapia production while two farmers are involved in the rearing of fresh water prawns on a commercial scale.
He said that there are also several farmers getting involved in red tilapia production in both small and large scales and that several other operations are planned in this field.
According to Geer, the Ministry has been trying to support the expanding industry by using its available resources including its technical personnel and the Mon Repos fish farm and Training Centre.
The fish farm was constructed at some $36M and is equipped with a laboratory, ten spawning ponds, inlets and outlets supply and drainage canals, internal roadways, and living quarters for the training officer.
As a result of four training programmes held this year, some 40 persons are now equipped with the necessary expertise to rear red tilapia.
That training facility was constructed as part of a unique partnership involving the Government, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It was commissioned last year to stimulate and promote aquaculture, create skilled manpower to support fish farming, practise adaptive research in support of potential farmers, improve extension services and provide fish seed.
Geer said that the research done would be useful to farmers, the facility having evaluated the locally produced feed and those imported. He said that they have a mandate to present these findings to potential farmers so that when they get into farming they would be knowledgeable of the job and will have some information about its profits and so on.
He said that the Ministry is currently trying to expand the facility to cater for the different needs as they arise.
Noting that more farmers are getting involved in the aquaculture farming throughout the country, Geer said there are many large and small-scale farmers throughout the country.
He said that many farmers are willing to invest in the industry especially those from Regions Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Five (Mahaica/Berbice) and Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).
Noting that many persons are interested in investing in the rearing of freshwater prawns, Geer pointed out that it is not always easy, as the rearing of other species since the feed, for instance, has to be imported at high costs.
He said that there are plans to establish a freshwater prawn hatchery in the country and was optimistic that the facility will be constructed by the middle of next year.
Permanent Secretary Mr. Bowhan Balkaran also urged farmers to get involved in the aquaculture industry and advised small companies to get involved in deep-sea fishing.
Balkaran announced that no more licences would be issued for the catching of shrimp for this could cause the exhaustion of resources. He explained that the resource is currently at the level of sustainability.
The Ministry normally enforces a closed-season, which is used as a rehabilitation period for processing plants and vessels, and for the fishing resources to be rejuvenated among others.
Balkaran explained that the closed season was introduced after consultations with stakeholders in the sector who agreed that there is a need for a closed-period, which is usually six months.
During this time, fishing zones are monitored to prevent illegal fishing, Mr. Balkaran stated. (ABIGAIL BUTLER)