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During the deliberations the regional and international arrangements for sustainable utilisation of shared large pelagic fishing resources in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and Guyana's participation in these arrangements were reviewed.
The report on CARICOM Fisheries Unit meetings in 2001 and meetings of the International Commission on the Conservation of Tuna (ICCAT) were also discussed.
Declaring open the forum, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh alluded to the increasing contribution of the fisheries sector to Guyana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He noted this is an indication of greater investment and earnings by entrepreneurs in the sector, thereby creating increased employment opportunities for the Guyanese populace.
Recognising this, Sawh said the Government and his ministry have been placing greater emphasis on the development ad expansion of the fishing industry.
He identified several initiatives that have been implemented by the ministry to further boost the capacity and ensure the sustainable management of fisheries resources.
Realising the pressure being placed on the oceanic resources, the Government has implemented a deliberate strategy to diversify the sector to ensure sustainability, and in this regard aquaculture is being vigorously pursued, Sawh informed the gathering.
He observed that the area under aquaculture cultivation has now grown to more than 4,000 acres.
Also as part of its sustainable drive, his ministry is actively promoting and enforcing the use of Turtle Excluding Devices (TEDs), and Guyana's fishing vessels have been certified as being compliant with the regulations governing TEDs by the U.S., thus gaining access to export fisheries to a very important market.
He noted too that the benefits of the closed season for fishing by trawlers are now becoming evident.
Sawh said the recent Fisheries Bill passed in Parliament will now allow for the implementing of regulations governing the sustainable management of fishing resources.
He also informed the forum that a European Union (EU) team would be making its final assessment shortly to determine if Guyana's fisheries exporters have attained the standards laid down by the EU.
This will lay the basis for access to the lucrative European market, he added.
"Over the years Guyana has been able to develop most of its fisheries; we have a thriving shrimp and ground fish fishery, a developing deep slope snapper fishery and a developed shark fishery.
"However, we have been placing enormous pressure on these resources to meet our market demands and not realising that we have other unutilised and underutilised resources that can be of great benefit to use both economically and socially," Sawh said.
He added: "Under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) 1982, each state has the authority to manage and utilise the resources within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The utilisation of our large pelagic fishery has been quite minimal, where some species (mackerel and kingfish) have been caught as incidentals in other fisheries.
"Through UNCLOS Guyana has the right to utilise these shared resources within its jurisdiction, once it is done on a sustainable manner and under international law."
Touching on the issue of over exploitation of fishing resources by industrialised countries, the minister declared: "In recent years ICCAT has noted that several large pelagic species have been exploited over the years by industrialised nations. This problem has been exacerbated by illegal fishing.
"Notwithstanding this, Guyana has a right and a need to develop this fisheries and make maximum use of its resources within its EEZ."
"In developing this fishery we need to take a precautionary approach, and do this in a rational manner in accordance with the Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries so we can find favour and support within the international community," Sawh exhorted.
In an earlier presentation, President of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors, Mr. Leslie Romalho expressed concern about the financial costs involved in becoming a member of ICCAT, which is a requirement to become a pelagic exporter.
But becoming a member of ICCAT does not mean automatically being allocated export quotas.
Romalho proposed that in order to offset the high costs of accessing membership to ICCAT, CARICOM should apply en bloc rather than individual countries applying to become members.
He also contended that Caribbean countries would have "a larger voice" in determining quotas through a collective approach.
Sawh, in his response, conceded that the issues raised are very pertinent but observed that these are only part of the whole scenario, pointing out that the Government has adopted a holistic approach which deals with all the concerns.
Senior Biologist of the CARICOM Fsheries Unit, Dr. Susan Singh Renton emphasised the need for cooperation among countries to ensure that fish harvesting is done in a sustainable manner and observed that Guyana is obligated to honour the regulations that govern fish harvesting practices.