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China Looking For Atlantic Tuna Fishing Rights Via Guyana

Chinese nationals have applied for the right to conduct tuna fishing in Guyana waters in the Atlantic Ocean. The possible issuance of tuna fishing licenses to a Chinese fishing firm has sparked concern for the South American country that the foreign fleet may begin to exploit the stocks of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), minimizing its coastal fish and food.

The Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) says that it is awaiting word from the Agriculture Minister of the decision made on the matter and will take place in the industry. The Minister was reported to say that, after assessment of the Chinese application, a detailed proposal should be presented by the firm, and a study into deep sea fishing in the waters would need to be conducted. 

It was explained by the GATOSP that local operators have refrained from deep water fishing as it is an activity monitored by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The Commission aims to maintain the populations of tuna and tuna-like fish in the Atlantic Ocean.

In response to objections that Guyana resources would be taken from the country, the Chinese firm has expressed an interest in constructing a fish processing plant in the South American country. According to Agricultural Minister, Dr. Ramsammy, in a letter to the government, the company indicated its interest in establishing a processing plant in Guyana, but it was not clear whether this was to be created on land or at sea.

He stated that currently there are regulations that restrict the number of vessels in Guyana waters in order to prevent overfishing, and explained that this is why a study would need to be conducted by the Chinese firm in order to for the company to inform government of the fish species it would like to harvest and include the results in its proposal.

Dr. Ramsammy outlined that another limitation the company could face is the fishing of stocks that need external approval. He said: “Some of them we have indicated are not dependent on Guyana alone, but we must have approval from the ICCAT on tuna, which is a quota system around the world, and Guyana would not be able to do that. There is no indication that they are interested in tuna. That is the present situation as far as I know.”

He added that the operations of the company would not affect artisanal fishing. He said: “Fishing in Guyana is done by artisanal fishers. Their boats cannot go too fast, as such, the company would not be granted license where the local fishermen are operating.”