Fisheries bill passed, aims for sustainable development
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
December 6, 2002

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Legislation aimed at developing the fisheries sector while still conserving marine resources was unanimously passed in the reconvened parliament yesterday.

The Fisheries Bill 2002 covers fisheries management and development, registration of fishing vessels - local and foreign, local fishing licences, provisions applicable to both foreign and local fishing vessels, fees, royalties, etc, marine reserves and fishing priority areas, prohibited fishing methods, possession of prohibited fishing gear and stowage of fishing gear, high seas fishing, fish processing establishments, import and export of fish and enforcement and judicial proceedings.

It was noted under the miscellaneous section that a person who fails to comply with any of the provisions of the act would be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000.

Under enforcement and judicial proceedings, provision has been made for the powers of authorised officers to reach beyond the limits of national jurisdiction; seizure of fishing vessels; seizure of vehicles or aircraft; security, release and forfeiture of detained property among others.

Leading off the debate at the Ocean View Hotel's Convention Centre on the bill which was drafted with the aid of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock Satyadeow Sawh noted the important role the sector plays in the economic development of the country.

Quoting from an FAO report, he noted that the fisheries sector in Guyana contributed 2.4% - 2.7% to the country's gross domestic product during the last five years and to the agricultural GDP 7% -8% for the same period.

Fish exports over the past decade reached a peak of US$35M in 1999. This included frozen fish and fresh cuts and this was likely to continue in the foreseeable future, Sawh said. Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are among the more important destinations along with Canada and the United States.

Noting that exports to the European Union countries at this point in time were not significant, he noted that Guyana was awaiting EU certification.

Sawh said the sector plays an important role in terms of providing a cheap and alternative source of protein and provides an estimated 10,600 jobs in coastal and rural communities.

He quoted, too from the Private Sector Commission Economic Policy Unit's last quarterly report which said that during the 1990's shrimp tonnage has more than quadrupled and this single seafood product now accounts for the same value of export earnings as the rice industry. For the first six months of 2002, rice exports were valued at US$22.9M and fish and shrimp combined were valued at US$31.7M.

He said the Fisheries Bill seeks to put Guyana in line with modern developments in relation to sustainable fishing; the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as it relates to fisheries; and the FAO guidelines on international conservation and management measures.

He said the country has instituted two closed fishing seasons to allow for replenishment in the fishing grounds. In addition there is a closed season during the peak of the endangered marine turtle nesting period. Provisions have been made for these in the new piece of legislation.

Sawh also noted that provision has been made for the formulation of regulations pertaining to the licensing, regulation and management of any particular fishery; prescribing fisheries management and conservation measures including prescribed mesh sizes, gear standards, minimum species sizes, closed season, closed areas; prohibited methods of fishing or fishing gear and schemes; the taking of coral and shells; and the taking of aquarium or ornamental fish.

The bill also makes provision for the setting up of a fisheries advisory committee to advise on the proper utilisation of resources.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy spoke on the sanitary and phyto-sanitary provisions which the bill calls for. GAP/WPA MP Shirley Melville, the lone opposition MP in Parliament yesterday, supported the passage of the bill.

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