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VP Jagdeo still denying Exxon’s operations impacting fish catch even though company says opposite

VP Jagdeo still denying Exxon’s operations impacting fish catch even though company says opposite

ExxonMobil, News, Oil & Gas

Kaieteur News – ExxonMobil Guyana Limited (EMGL) has admitted that its operations offshore daily can impact marine species, including fish and other benthic creatures, but Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, in shrugging off a question of compensation to fisherfolk as a result of reduced catches, dismissed this revelation.

Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo

Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo

During his most recent press conference at Freedom House, Robb Street, Georgetown, the VP was asked who would compensate fishermen for their livelihoods, since the company has said its activities will endanger such species. https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2023/09/19/fish-eggs-could-be-lost-daily-during-oil-production-exxonmobil-consultant/

Jagdeo in responding explained that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had conducted a study in Guyana which concluded that the startup of oil and gas activities were not to be blamed to the reduced catches.

He said, “When there was a claim by Glenn Lall and the others that all the fish ran away from Guyana because of the oil and gas industry, they (FAO) said that that was not supported by scientific fact, that it had to do a lot with fresh water going further out into the sea in the period of heavy rainfall etcetera; so salinity or fresh water when you have heavy rainy season can affect the fish stock and the migration patterns along the coast- that was their conclusion.”

Back in May 2022, the Minister of Agriculture told this newspaper that the international organization found climate change to be the cause of lower fish catches. Calls for the document to be released were ignored, causing stakeholders to question its credibility.

The body however in response to a letter from a Guyanese member of civil society explained, “The technical analysis in question was requested by Guyana to contribute to its understanding of these complex catch issues and support decision-making. It is a rapid assessment of reported issues related to fisheries catch between 2020 and 2021 and is based on available data.”

This however sparked further concern given that a “rapid” study between a limited time was used to reach such a conclusion. See more in the link below: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2022/05/25/fao-says-rapid-study-available-data-determined-low-fish-catch-not-as-a-result-of-oil-production/

With the eminent danger to the fishing industry, fisherfolk have become concerned about their future and livelihoods. VP Jagdeo who manages the petroleum industry from a policy perspective said that to date the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not conducted a study on the migration patterns of fish stocks, which could be used to inform policy decisions in the industry.

In the meantime, he explained that the developer of the Stabroek Block, EMGL has submitted Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to the EPA which outline “worst case scenarios” and measures for mitigation. “What the EIA would do, is the EIA would say what are the worst-case scenarios, so if there is a spill, what would be the worst-case scenario, it would potentially have an impact on our fishermen, navigation waters, flora and fauna, a whole range of stuff and how do you minimize or how do you mitigate.”

Jagdeo was keen to note that such likely impacts must not prevent the development of the sector. Instead, he pointed out, “So you have to mitigate against potential impact, you have to demonstrate that should this happen, I have the capability to address it and I will address it through these measures and that is what the EIA would do.”

He was told that a Biologist from Exxon’s Consultant, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) had informed a recent meeting that the daily oil production activities could impact fish eggs, and dangers to the sector were not limited to a spill.

To this end, Jagdeo said, “as I said before, this is assessed by the FAO about fishing stocks in the country and they found it not to affect the fishing stock…” He then assured that discharges from the company’s operations are treated to a higher standard to minimize impacts to marine resources. According to him, “There are many parts of this world where water is not treated to the standard; we are treating it before its discharged back into the ocean and many parts of the world where they just throwing it back in an untreated fashion.”

Only on Monday, this newspaper reported that the Bank of Guyana (BoG) signaled an 8.7 percent decline in fish catch during the first six months of the year.  According to the BoG Half-Year Report, fish production moved from 7,404 tonnes in 2021 t0 7,477 tonnes in 2022 during the assessment period (January to June). However, the figure dipped to 6,827 tonnes in 2023, during the same period.