Guyana retains all clear for U.S. shrimp exports
By Mark Ramotar
April 11, 2007
GUYANA has been recertified to export shrimp to the lucrative United States market for the tenth consecutive year, a beaming Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud announced yesterday.
Since in excess of 70% of the shrimp harvested in Guyana’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is exported annually to the U.S., Mr. Persaud said this recertification would ensure that the fishing industry continues to export shrimp and shrimp products to this market.
At the simple official handing over of certification ceremony at the Ministry of Agriculture, the minister stated that the shrimp industry forms a crucial sector of Guyana’s exports, and that billions of dollars worth in shrimp are exported annually to the U.S.
Total production in the industry for both shrimp and fish for 2006 was about 51,000 metric tones of which more than 17,000 metric tonnes were shrimp, and Persaud said over 70% of this product goes directly to the U.S. with the remainder of the shrimp going to markets in the Caribbean.
“This is a significant area of income for the sea food industry and the U.S. market is the largest shrimp market for exporters, so it is very critical receiving the recertification to export the shrimp,” he told reporters at the ceremony.
Under U.S. law countries exporting shrimp to the U.S. must be compliant with the legal requirement of having a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) on board fishing vessels.
The possession and use of TEDs on board commercial shrimp boats is the chief component of the U.S. sea turtle conservation efforts, and Guyana’s compliance with the protocols and regulations of the programme was lauded yesterday by Ms. Nancy Long, Economic and Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown.
In her remarks at the ceremony, Long said Guyana has been found to be following, in general, “the correct protocols” governing the use of TEDs here.
She recalled that during a verification visit in February this year representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service were allowed to observe the use of TEDs and see whether they comply with the regulations issued by the Guyana Government for its shrimp fleet.
Long said that in general, the verification team found that the vessels examined had TEDs installed in their nets and had been using them. This, she said, is apparently the result of the steps the government has taken, in cooperation with the shrimp fishing and processing industry, to maintain the enforcement of Guyana’s sea turtle programme.
The U.S. Embassy official also said it is important for all governments implementing a sea turtle protection programme of this kind, including the U.S. Government, to maintain comprehensive enforcement coverage for both dockside and at-sea inspection.
She said it is also helpful for the government to occasionally provide refresher training to their enforcement officers and suggested that items such as inspecting for the correct angle, opening size, bar spacing and flotation should be emphasised.
“In addition to that, they also noticed that your Inspectors were about the best trained around…and the (U.S. team) wanted to commend you. Again, hats off to you,” she declared.
The TED programme was introduced here in 1997 to ensure Guyana complied with the U.S. programme on the conservation of sea turtles, and Persaud pointed out that it has been a decade now since the scheme was introduced in Guyana and Guyana has been certified for each of the ten years.
Since the programme was put in place, he said six Inspectors have been trained and are stationed on the various wharves to ensure the proper usage of the TEDs by trawler operators.
The government has also revised regulations under the new Fisheries Act to ensure better practices at sea by shrimpers and harsher penalties are enforced for errant shrimpers, he said.
Assuring that the draft fisheries plan does emphasise the sustainable utilisation of local fisheries resources, Persaud said the recently formed Fisheries Advisory Committee is also examining this matter closely.
He also said the fishing industry and the Fisheries Department are working to replace the steel TEDs being used at the moment to a better aluminum TED since these do not rot easily and last longer.
He also hinted at the possible introduction of carrying out inspections at sea to effectively manage the TED programme.
Guyana will therefore continue to comply and enforce the TED programme to prevent any accidental drowning of turtles in shrimp nets, the Agriculture Minister said.
Persaud also urged the Trawlers’ and Seafood Producers’ Association operators to ensure that Guyana maintains compliance, not only in the interest of holding the U.S. market, but to support the government’s objective of sustainable development of the country’s natural resources.
According to Persaud, the goal of fisheries in Guyana is to manage, regulate and promote sustainable development of Guyana’s fishery resources for the benefit of stakeholders and benefit of the nation as a whole.
He also noted that fisheries is an important sector in Guyana and contributes both as a foreign exchange earner through its exports and to the government coffers through licensing and registration of processing plant, fishing vessels and export licences.