Agriculture Ministry to provide patrol vessel for fishing zones

Kaieteur News
March 1, 2007

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Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud says he is deeply disturbed about the reported increase in attacks by pirates on small fisher folk operating on the Pomeroon/North West District coastline.

The Minister expressed his concern on Tuesday during a meeting at his office with fishing boat operators who work in the area.

The fisher folk, most of whom are from the Essequibo region, reiterated concerns for their employees, who have had traumatic experiences at the hands of heavily armed pirates. They lamented the lack of riverain patrols in the fishing district.

Within the past two months, pirates have intensified their attacks on small fishing vessels in the area, sometimes making off with an entire boat after leaving their victims marooned on deserted islands.

Minister Persaud assured that since the matter has now taken on a security focus, his ministry will officially write to the Minister of Home Affairs and Commissioner of Police to convey the concerns of the fishermen as well as highlight some of their suggestions to arrest the problem.

“Some of these matters you've raised have come up at previous meetings, and I know that both the Minister (Home Affairs) and the Commissioner of Police are very adamant and strong that the Police must respond. If they have issues of resources, we have to work until we've given them the type of marine resources in dealing with the issues,” Minister Persaud said.

He disclosed that his ministry is in the process of providing a sum of money to offset the acquisition of a boat to patrol the fishing areas on a regular basis.

“We must work with the Police, because if they say they don't have a boat, as they represented to me, too, the Ministry of Agriculture…will try to give you the boat to go and police out there, and that's what we're using some of that money to do,” Minister Persaud said.

One of the fishermen, who claims to have had 15 years' experience in the industry, said that he has not seen a Police patrol boat nor a GDF Coast Guard vessel in the entire Guyana fishing zone from Venezuela to Suriname.

Another fisherman questioned the non-utilisation of a number of Coast Guard vessels which, he said, are lying useless while the lives of fishermen are being threatened.

“When we go fuh boat dem, dem nah gat boat, but when dem deh in de river, dem know fuh come hustle we fuh gas,” the fisherman told the Minister.

The fishermen claimed that sometimes it costs them as much as $50,000 per trip to acquire a boat to comb the area for missing vessels and signs of pirates.

There are reports that some of the stolen vessels and engines are taken to Venezuela , where they are sold, and Minister Persaud promised to raise the issue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a view to soliciting some assistance from the Venezuelan security forces.

“We're working with the Coast Guard to develop a vessel monitoring system, whereby we are able to get better surveillance,” Minister Persaud said.

He said that he also intends to prepare a report with some recommendations to take to the Cabinet to ensure that there is a full awareness of what is really taking place.

The Minister advised that the fisher folk form themselves into groups similar to the community policing groups to patrol the fishing districts. This, he said, would be the most appropriate way to go, instead of issuing firearms to every fishing vessel.

The question of duty free concession was also addressed by the Minister, who said that Government has put into place a system that would allow persons to purchase outboard engines of up to 75 horsepower capacity, without having to pay the value added tax.