Guyana – Draft Law Completed for Catch and Release Fishing in North Rupununi

Draft Law Completed for Catch and Release Fishing in North Rupununi (Guyana)

Georgetown, Guyana – Protocols and draft legislation have been completed for the catch and release sport fishing project in the North Rupununi aimed at preserving the endangered Arapaima fish, while promoting eco-tourism.

The North Rupununi cluster which comprises three eco-lodges – Karanambu, Surama and Rewa – presented the draft to Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, The Hon. Sydney Allicock at an official ceremony in Georgetown culminating the first phase of the catch-and-release Arapaima Sport Fishing Project, supported by Compete Caribbean.

A detailed plan was developed by the cluster to upgrade these lodges to international standards of excellence for sustainable tourism, with catch-and-release sport fishing as a lucrative tourism product. Other key objectives of the project are the protection and preservation of Arapaima stocks, and the development of small to medium scale businesses that will boost the quality of life in the surrounding communities.

The Arapaima is native to Guyana and parts of the Amazon Basin. This South American giant breathes air, and is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. Some grow to more than 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh upwards of 400 pounds (180 kilogrammes).

Minister Allicock lauded the project for promoting tourism and offering protection to the endangered species. He explained that years ago the price for the Arapaima meat had skyrocketed in Brazil, prompting people from the local community to aggressively harvest the fish to sell in Brazil.

As a result, the communities began lobbying for a management plan. He said that they were eventually given a plan and the opportunity to monitor the species pool and lauded Compete Caribbean for working along with the same goals. In addition to securing the protection of the species, he added that the program has vastly affected the community in very positive ways. “I can tell you that within the three communities, we have seen the confidence of our people and have seen partnership, trust and accountability,” while adding that he hopes they will be able to use the protocols and legislation to better manage the species and protect it.

Attorney Nigel Hughes, who formally handed over the draft legislation, said it is aimed at implementing scientifically based protocols to encourage the proper management and the sustainable development of the Arapaima, to regulate catch and release activities in the Rupununi and to develop protocols which will minimise stress from the activity and increase existing stocks as well as prolong life. “What happens is that you pay for the experience of catching and releasing and then you can return and can do it again and it does not have an influence on reducing the pool of the Arapaima.”

Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes thanked Compete Caribbean for what she labeled “a dynamic product,” which she said has already had an impact on the development of the tourism industry. “We know we have great natural beauty and we know we have enticing people of six dynamic races and we have vision and drive but as you know you can have all of that and if you haven’t got the dollars you cannot translate it into something real,” she said.

Hughes pointed that research shows that persons are more opened to experiencing eco-tourism than taking pictures in front of the statues and that is where Guyana’s tourism gemstone, the Rupununi, becomes vital.

She noted that the ministry recognises sports fishing as an import niche in the industry and acknowledges that they would not have been able to develop it without the help of Compete Caribbean and the cluster.

IDB Country Representative for Guyana, Sophie Makonnen; High Commissioner for Canadain Guyana, Pierre Giroux and Executive Director of Compete Caribbean, Sylvia Dohnert all made meaningful contributions which celebrated the project and its impact on Guyana, its people and its future sustainability.