Fishermen, staffers of regulatory agencies, students of the University of Guyana and other stakeholders of the fisheries sector are currently engaged in a two-day workshop aimed at reducing bycatch of endangered species. At least 25 Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) are known to interact with the marine fisheries in the Guianas, including sharks, rays, sea turtles and dolphins. While some of these are targeted in the fishery, most are caught as bycatch and often discarded back to sea.
World Wildlife Fund Guianas, Office Country Manager for Guyana, Ms. Aiesha Williams told those gathered at the opening that “Fisheries play an important role in our social and economic development and our peoples’ health and wellbeing, therefore we must ensure that we do all within our power to maintain healthy fish stocks; it is important for us to be aware of the impacts of some fishing gears/ vessels may pose to several of these ETP species and take the necessary care to ensure that any harmful activities- some of which can drive some of these sensitive species population to very low numbers or to extinction, over time, which in turn, affects the healthy fisheries stocks we all depend on. Some of these important species you will explore today need your special care, their life cycle, the way in which they multiply, the current global populations and the fact that they help us to understand the oceans health, and all of this also make it complicated for them to recover from activities such as overfishing, net entanglement among others.”
Ms. Williams posited that, “as fisheries stakeholders we all have our part to play in ensuring that measures are in place to reduce these interactions and impacts and that we fish in a sustainable manner”.
Some of the first steps toward taking care of fisheries is to understand which are the very sensitive ones, understand what role they play in the ocean and being able to identify them. During several discussions with fishers like yourselves and other fisheries stakeholders both WWF and the DoF have recognized that there are difficulties in differentiating what these species are and especially identifying the sensitive ones. As such workshop is expected to help build capacities and knowledge so that possible measures could be put in place to help reduce the impacts.
ETP species include species that typically interact with fisheries, but need attention because they are endangered or threatened, and therefore either protected by local, national or international legislation, or in need of a protected status. The species are classified as ETP based on vulnerability assessments, and are listed on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) ‘Red List’ of threatened species. These species may also be protected from international trade if they occur in the annexes of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species).