Forty-five fishermen from Corentyne were between Sunday and Wednesday, detained by Suriname Marine Patrol for entering the Corentyne River without having their passports stamped.
The fishermen are crew members of nine fishing boats.
Suriname soldiers from the country’s capital Paramaribo spearheaded the operation.
The fishermen were arrested and later fined the equivalent of US$100. Failure to pay the fine will mean deportation sometime next year.
When the first set of fishermen were held, two boat owners went to investigate and attempted to cross the Corentyne River. They too were taken into custody for being in the waters illegally.
This move by Suriname is having a negative impact on fishing on the Upper Corentyne. Surinamese authorities are claiming that the fishermen were in Surinamese waters illegally.
Chairman of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen Co-op Pamishwar Jainarine told this publication that the Surinamese intensified the campaign early this year.
“Traditionally, we have fished in these waters for about 50 years and we don’t normally take out passports to go and fishing. You just go in the fishing boat and go out into the water,” Jainarine related.
In June, a campaign by the Surinamese Border Patrol resulted in the arrest of scores of Guyanese who attempted to cross the Corentyne River via the ‘backtrack’.
Meanwhile, between Sunday and Wednesday, the military patrol was not checking to determine whether the fishers were licenced to fish in the Corentyne River, but rather only to find out if the Guyanese had passports with a stamp of entry to Suriname.
Suriname’s immigration policy grants six months stay to Guyanese seeking to enter the country legally.
Jainarine maintains that the action by the Surinamese amounts to harassment. He said the only way the fishers will be ‘legal’ in the waters is if they go to the Canawima crossing at Moleson Creek and leave through the port, then use the ‘Backtrack’ to get back to Guyana after having their passports stamped.
He said the fishers will then have to take their boats and go into the waters to fish.
This process, the Chairman noted, is almost impossible for the fishers.
Currently, the patrol boats are waiting on other vessels which are out at sea. This publication understands that sixty other boats with a combined crew of 300 are still out at sea.
According to Jainarine, under the licences which the fishers were granted to operate in the Suriname waters, they are required to take their catch first to a port in the neighbouring state. In fact, some of the boats taken on Sunday were on their way to the town of Nickerie in Suriname to purchase ice which is what must be done under the licences.
The fishers go to Suriname, purchase ice and then return before going on the fishing expedition, Jainarine explained.
Jainarine further explained that many of the members of the Number 66 Fishermen Co-op Complex do not have birth certificates and hence cannot acquire passports.
“Most of the fishermen are poor people; their parents did not register them at birth. When we make attempts to get them registered they don’t have birth certificates.” (Guyana Times)