High-Level meeting held to address illegal importation of shrimp, fish from Suriname –  collaborative effort needed to ensure compliance

Ministry of Agriculture, Guyana – The issue of ‘illegal importation’ of shrimp, Fish into Guyana’s shores has been a cause for concern and one the relevant authorities have been tirelessly trying to address over the years.  As a follow-up to this a high-level meeting was today convened in the boardroom of the Ministry of Agriculture and a number of decisions were taken to ensure the issue becomes a thing of the past.

Among the interventions, there will be a collaborative effort taken to ensure compliance, increase monitoring and enforcement of borders to tackle the known smugglers within Guyana and Suriname and an increase in fine levied against offenders.

Minister Holder and other officials during the meeting.

Crime Chief, Wendell Blanhum has committed to ensuring stronger enforcement, working along with the Commander of B Division. He added that while it is important for the police to ensure compliance, it is also necessary for all players involved to work together.

“It is important for all the key personnel’s to work in together to ensure that the issue of smuggling is addressed…we (police) have had a close relationship with Aquaculture Association and together I am adamant we can have this matter addressed,” he said.

Agriculture Minister, Hon, Noel Holder in addressing the matter spoke of the constraints which such an issue has posed on the local market adding that it has paved the way for ‘unfair competition’.

“The smuggling of shrimp, fish and fish products in and out of the country affects us all. In addition, the smuggling of shrimp and fish into Guyana has the potential to generate many problems such as the introduction of pest and disease into our environmen…so while you may be getting a cheaper commodity, you may be damaging your health and the health of your family,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Suedat Persaud, Secretary of the East Berbice/ Corentyle Aquaculture Association voiced his concerns at the manner in which the issue is being handled allegedly by the Customs and Law enforcement officials at Springland.

While adding that more needs to be done at the level of the Customs Department,  Persaud lauded the efforts of the Food and Drug officials,  the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Police Force for assisting where necessary in the past.

“While we have had some assistance in the past, it remains insignificant. Our livelihoods are on the breadline and as such, we (Association) believed more needs to be done,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department has been working around the clock with the Guyana Police Force, and the Guyana Revenue Authority to put an end to the issue. As such, a holistic approach will now be taken which will not only include stronger border patrol but will see the Ministry of Public Health and the Food and Drug Analysis Department working to have in place sanitary and phytosanitary certificates issued.

The farmers’/importers would be now be required to produce the certificate in order for their shipment to be certified and released. Failure to do this will result in the Environmental Health Officers seizing the shipment.

In addition, stronger penalties will also be levied against offenders in the event they are caught in the illegal act. Presently, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has a heavy fine of 150-350,000 attached to vehicles caught transporting the illegal catch. Discussions have now commenced to having this increased.

The team also agreed to have the new plan run for a period of three months, after which a review will be done on the progress and will determine the way forward.

Present at the meeting were, Ms. Dawn Pickkette-Punche, Branch Manager (Asst Commissioner), Mr. Earl Daniels, Assist Commissioner, Law Enforcement and Investigation Division and Mr. Irvine Dey, Supervisor, Customs Department, Corriverton, respectively of the Guyana Revenue Authority; of the Public Health Ministry were; Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ozaye Dodson, Director of Veterinary Public Health and Mr. Marlan Cole, Director of the Food and Drug Analyst Department.

Representing the Guyana Police Force was Crime Chief, Assistant Commissioner, Law Enforcement, Mr. Wendell Blanhum.

Also present were Chief Fisheries Officer, Mr. Denzil Roberts and Mr. Suedat Persaud, Secretary, East Berbice Aquaculture Association.

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