Inland fisheries an integral part of Orealla’s way of life

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THE inland fisheries of Guyana have valuable resources, a fact proven when one takes a look at the way of life in remote communities, the majority of which are Amerindian communities, such as Orealla on the Corentyne River in Region Six (East Berbice/ Corentyne).
There the seines are set by individuals or groups, most times a family group, in the afternoon, and lifted in the early morning hours to support their households.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) described Guyana’s marine environment as one which lies within the area bounded by the Orinoco and Amazon rivers, and during the rainy season, is greatly influenced by the heavy sediment load and great discharge of fresh water from these huge rivers, as well as its own large rivers, the Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice. The fresh water affects the salinity, while the sediments (and nutrients) create a series of shifting sand bars and mud flats that cover the shelf out to about the 40-metre isobath. Sand gradually becomes dominant beyond this depth and is replaced by coral at about 100metres depth. The mud supports a rich invertebrate fauna that nourishes a variety of demersal species.

According to 54-year-old Shellimar Samuel, inland fishing in Orealla is the main activity, the other two being farming and forestry, with a focus on lumber.
“The catch varies, but it is from fresh water, and it is part of what Orealla has to offer,” he said.

He explained that from a tender age, residents in Orealla accept that the river supports their living and the consensus in the community is to avoid activities that would have a negative effect on the river and its resources.
However, he acknowledged that inland fish stocks are threatened when human activities are not properly regulated.
And so, interventions such as a National Inland Fisheries Policy, seek to ensure that these resources are protected; but in remote communities the provisions in the policy are not enforced.
Samuel noted that the village oversees what is to be done.
The remoteness of communities like Orealla impacts on the availability of data on inland fishing, but according to the Ministry of Agriculture, indications are that most inland fishing is carried out by Amerindians, although non-Amerindians fish in inland waters near the coast and in the vicinity of logging and mining communities in the interior of the country.
The 54-year-old was born and raised in Orealla and posits that while inland fishing is usually done without many problems – a dynamic that results from a maintenance of nature’s balance.

The Mangrove Habitat
Crucial to that balance is the protection of the mangroves that line the Corentyne River; and in the past year, the benefits of the mangrove forests have been brought increasingly into focus.
Mangroves trap sediments and break down pollutants which serve as a source of food for fish, shrimp and crabs that live in rivers and shallow areas of the sea/ ocean; provide homes and nurseries for many animals, primarily fishes; and provide a safe haven for juvenile fish, shrimp and crab located on Guyana’s coastline
If destroyed, there will be a reduction in the breeding grounds for shrimp and other species of fishes; and the environmental impact of the investment in the protection, management and restoration of mangrove forests in Guyana is therefore significant.

Last year, the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP) was kicked off and has made significant strides since then.
In June last year, a team from the project visited Orealla to host a consultation and, in an invited comment, Orealla’s Toshao, Mr. Mclean Davair, said the practices encouraged by the team to protect the mangroves are supported by the community.
The objectives of the GMRP are to promote sustainable management of mangrove forests; develop effective protection of mangrove ecosystem and rehabilitation; increase public awareness and education on the benefits of the mangrove forests; establish and complete a legal framework for mangrove ecosystem management and encourage community-based mangrove management; and establish the administrative capacity for the management of mangroves in Guyana.
Davair noted that life in Orealla is simple, an understanding grasped by all in the community who try to protect that simple way of living.