Aquaculture sector to become ‘economic powerhouse’

Aquaculture sector to become ‘economic powerhouse’


— ‘Sat Sawh’ station to be expanded, zoning to take place

(GuyanaChronicle) THE hidden potential of aquaculture in Guyana will soon be revealed as the government moves to make this sector globally competitive and a key contributor to economic growth, through several initiatives like the expansion of the Satyadeow Sawh Aquaculture Station and aquaculture zoning, both on land and in water. The aquaculture sector in Guyana is still relatively small, with production occupying only about 350 hectares of land around the country. Aquaculture, a component of the agriculture sector, is the process of rearing, breeding and harvesting of aquatic species, both animals and plants, in controlled aquatic environments like the oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Aquaculture in Guyana occurs in both brackish and freshwater earthen ponds from extensive to semi-intensive operations. “Aquaculture in Guyana shows strong potential since the country has relatively large acres of flat lands with suitable soil types and access to large quantities and good quality freshwater (water conservancies)… moreso there are existing drainage and irrigation infrastructure in some areas, sub-tropical temperatures for shrimp and fish production and good availability of agricultural/ fisheries by-products for the formulation and manufacturing of aquafeed,” said Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha in an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Friday.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha

He said too that there is also a great degree of unskilled and, to a lesser extent, skilled labour available for aqua-farming. A National Development Strategy on aquaculture, prepared in 1996, states that with a transfer of technology, a propitious policy environment, and entrepreneurship, it is conceivable that by the year 2004, Guyana would have 3,000 hectares of ponds producing 2,500 metric tonnes of freshwater finfish annually, for the local market. This would have seen the development of approximately 100 freshwater farms and the employment of about 1,000 Guyanese. “In addition, if only a portion of the coastal area is developed in a semi-intensive way, the potential for coastal brackish water development by 2004 was conceived at 2,000 ha under semi-intensive operation, producing 4,000 metric tonnes of cultured shrimp from 200 farms and employing 2,000 Guyanese. “However, the same strategy estimated potential capture fishery production from the 50,000 km2 of Guyana’s river floodplains at 100 tonne/km2/annum which equates to five million tonnes per annum,” said Minister Mustapha, who was, at the time, making reference to the national strategy. Those levels have clearly not been achieved, but such calculations highlight that, in Guyana, production increases for aquaculture (or inland capture fisheries) depend more on social and economic factors, and policies and an enabling environment, not particularly constrained by resource (area) limitations.

The government, through its updated inland and aquaculture strategy, 2021-2026, plans to address the challenges plaguing the aquaculture industry and create an enabling and sustainable environment for investments. Among some of the initiatives that will drive development in this industry, is the expansion of the Satyadeow Sawh Aquaculture Station by four acres, to accommodate research on the arapaima and local species that have potential to become aquaculture species. There are also plans to develop a project for aquaculture zoning both on land and in water. The zoning of lands for aquaculture would allow investors to easily identify and access land. Ahead of anticipated investments in this sector, the government plans to prepare reports on market identification and competitiveness of aquaculture and key inland species. There are also plans to create investment guidelines for sustainable aquaculture. A small-scale aquaculture development project, which would be funded through local or international agencies, will also be established. “The project will seek to boost production through providing support for pond construction, drainage and irrigation, fingerling and feed supply, extension, training, market studies to develop access and processing facility,” said Minister Mustapha.

example, for 2019 it was reported to be
about 246 metric tonnes, but in 2017 it
was 696 metric tonnes.

This will pave the way for the resuscitation of the National Aquaculture Association (NAAG) and cooperatives. The establishment of NAAG will serve as a primary catalyst to the development of Guyana’s aquaculture sector, through the establishment an organised representative body for aquaculture farmers. Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, explained to this publication that freshwater aquaculture has used semi-intensive pond rearing practices to farm the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus); Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus); Jamaican red tilapia; and armoured catfish (Hoplosternum littorale). The Amazonian Tambaqui or pacu (Colossoma macropomum), he said, was introduced into aquaculture around 2012 and is one of the main farmed species currently. Aquaculture is practised mainly along the coast of Guyana. There are also some aquaculture activities in the North Rupununi. The aquaculture systems on the coast generally use freshwater supplied from a number of “water-trapping” structures referred to locally as conservancies.

These conservancies, the Boaserie Conservancy, East Demerara Conservancy and Canje Creek, release water into a system of irrigation canals draining ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.
Irrigated farming systems include mainly rice and sugar cane cultivation. In the Rupununi, rain-fed ponds are used and supplemented by pumping water from nearby rivers. The freshwater culture of tilapia uses rice bran, wheat bran, chicken starter and tilapia grower feeds, some of which are locally produced and some imported. “The aquaculture sector in Guyana is still relatively small and, therefore, differences in the performance of individual producers, fingerling production or individual species, can make relatively large differences to total production in the sector,” said Minister Mustapha. Consequently, production figures vary considerably between years. For example, for 2019 it was reported to be about 246 metric tonnes, but in 2017 it was 696 metric tonnes.
The imminent plans for aquaculture will see those figures increasing tremendously, and, to start progress on this front, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, has announced that there will be a high-level conference with all stakeholders next week. “It (aquaculture) has important and recognisable benefits for Guyana… we are positioned to become a major player in aquaculture… and, with the anticipated reduced cost of energy, we need to start preparing for the benefits,” said President Ali during a press briefing at the European Union (EU) Ambassador, Fernando Ponz Canto’s residence, on Thursday. The President said the conference will bring together stakeholders to discuss the potential benefits and create a defined pathway to develop aquaculture and make it globally competitive. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has already provided US$100,000 to Guyana in 2019, to strengthen the strategic and regulatory framework for inland fisheries and aquaculture development in Guyana.

The Fisheries Department in collaboration with the FAO is expected to convert a draft aquaculture regulation to a legal document in 2021. Compliance with this regulation and the relevant authorities like the Environmental Protection Agency, Veterinary Public Health Unit and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority will be requirements for aquaculture operations.
The fishing industry is a significant economic earner for the country. It values approximately $8.3Billion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs over 15,000 persons, directly and indirectly, boosting rural development. It is an important contributor to Guyana’s export earnings.

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