Aquaculture in Guyana is a relatively new concept, however, people on the Corentyne Coast have practiced a form of fisheries enhancement that is similar to aquaculture for over 100 years. Several attempts have been made over the years to develop freshwater and brackishwater aquaculture especially since local consumer demand for freshwater fish is high; this is reflected in the per capita consumption of fish in Guyana (58.7 kg per year in 1999). Recent declines in the marine capture fisheries as well as marketing difficulties with traditional crops have resulted in a recent renewal in interest in aquaculture.
Aquaculture activities in Guyana can be divided into freshwater and brackishwater, almost all of which are practiced on the coastal plains.
The species farmed using semi-intensive pond rearing practices are the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Jamaican red tilapia, giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), armoured catfish or atipa (Hoplosternum littorale) and the salmon shrimp (Mesopenaeus tropicalis).
Aquaculture products are currently not exported, the main markets being local domestic markets situated along the coast of the country. Farmers usually sell directly to consumers and no labelling is required on aquaculture produce. Aquaculture is still in its developmental stages and due to its almost negligible contribution to the economy it is not recorded separately.
Aquaculture management falls under the responsibility of the Research and Development Unit of the Department of Fisheries, one of several departments of the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock. There are no aquaculture private sector associations, but there is an aquaculture farmer’s representative on the Fisheries Advisory Committee. Currently, there is no legislation in force to manage the aquaculture sector specifically, but an Aquaculture Bill is expected to be introduced soon. Research priorities are set by the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock and take place mainly at the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre. The government's policy towards aquaculture focuses mainly on private sector driven growth with the government acting as a facilitator. Aquaculture development is seen as promoting agriculture diversification, improving food security, increasing the availability of high value protein food and improving environmental benefits.
The first reliable accounts of attempts at aquaculture in Guyana can be traced back to the early East Indian inhabitants of the Corentyne Coast near the Berbice River estuary. For over 100 years these people, followed by their present day descendants, have been practicing a system of fishery enhancement similar to aquaculture. This practice involves the legal or illegal opening of the sea defences and taking advantage of tidal inflows at high tides when juveniles, larvae, eggs, etc. are trapped in coastal polders and in some cases specially constructed enclosures near the foreshore where they are allowed to grow and mature to marketable size. Many marine species are contained in this way, some of the targeted species include salmon shrimp (Mesopenaeus tropicalis), common snook (Centropomus undecimalis), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and mullet (Mugil spp.).
Freshwater aquaculture began first in the late 1940s with the introduction of Mozambique tilapia. It was initially thought that fish culture could be undertaken through integration with agriculture such as fish produced in irrigated rice fields, or flooded sugar cane fields. In addition, the hundreds of miles of irrigation canals offered a ready possibility for undertaking freshwater aquaculture. However, none of these ideas were carried forward at the time, primarily because the government placed more emphasis on the development of marine capture fisheries.
Renewed interest in freshwater aquaculture occurred in the 1970s with the establishment of three facilities by the Department of Fisheries and a joint International Development Research Centre (IDRC)/ Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) venture. The Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was introduced and attempts were made at the culture of alternative indigenous species such as the armoured catfish or atipa (Hoplosternum littorale). However, due to a lack of management capabilities and the human resources required to continue operations the installations, both in the government and private sector fell into disrepair and were eventually abandoned.
A draft Action Plan for Aquaculture Development, prepared with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 1994 recommended the establishment of a freshwater fish farming station. Furthermore, in October 1997, an FAO/SLAC TCDC aquaculture specialist visited Guyana and, in collaboration with the Fisheries Department, outlined proposals for aquaculture development in the country, one of which included the establishment of a freshwater fish farming station.
A preliminary stock assessment, conducted by the Guyana-Brazil Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission WECAFC ad-hoc Working Group in May 1998, indicated that the penaeid shrimp resources had probably reached their maximum sustainable yield and that a number of commercial finfish species thought to be under-exploited were probably being over-exploited.
With the continuing decline in shrimp landings and an increased effort in the finfish fishery, the Government has been promoting aquaculture as an activity that could attract investors, generate employment and improve incomes and foreign exchange earnings through exports. In this regard, as well as in increased food production and higher nutritional levels for the population as a whole, the government sees aquaculture as playing a critical role. It also envisages improving the living standards of the rural farmers in Guyana.
Farmers currently operating in sugar and rice are interested in diversifying their operations and dedicating a portion of their land to the culture of freshwater fish and shrimp for sale both in the local markets and for export. The local demand for freshwater fish is high with a tradition of consuming freshwater fish in Guyana, which is reflected in a per capita fish consumption of 58.7 kg per year in 1999, amongst the highest levels in the world. On the Coastal Plain, where marine fish are easily accessible, there is a preference for freshwater fish species, such as Tilapia and Hoplosternum littorale . In the inland areas, due to the lack of access to marine fish, freshwater fish play an important part in the diet of the population.
Since 1997, the Government has embarked on an aquaculture expansion drive, the acreage under aquaculture has expanded, as well as the number of species being farmed. On 13 July 2001, Phase 1 of the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre was commissioned. This facility was constructed as a result of a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-TCP 8922), the Government of Guyana and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The government's policy is to facilitate the development of the aquaculture industry by the private sector, and according to the Private Sector Commission of Guyana, US$ 1.2 million was invested in aquaculture in 2002.
It is estimated that about 100 persons are currently involved mostly in brackishwater aquaculture production in a part-time capacity supplemented by other activities including rice and cattle farming, chicken and cash crop farming. The vast majority, over 80 percent, are literate and have a primary education while a small number possess a secondary education as well, however, no specific data exist in this area. Also with regard to gender distribution no data exist, however, from the author's personal observation, it may be noted that the involvement in freshwater aquaculture is overwhelmingly male, while in brackishwater aquaculture, approximately 40 percent of the persons involved are female.
Approximately 20 percent of those involved in aquaculture have received basic training from the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre while the remainder have received no formal training, many of those involved in brackishwater aquaculture however, have a limited amount of traditional knowledge at their disposal.
Guyana is divided into 10 administrative Regions, and four ecological zones. All aquaculture activities are practiced on the Low Coastal Plain and pond culture of tilapia and giant river prawn is the main farming system while rice-fish farming using tilapia has been introduced on an experimental basis. The aquaculture systems generally use freshwater supplied from a series of water trapping structures referred to locally as conservancies. These conservancies (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.
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. Fertilisers used are triple super phosphate and cow manure at rates of 56 kg/ha and 560 kg/ha, respectively.
There is experimental pond rearing of Macrobrachium rosenbergii in different regions, the feed used being an improved chicken starter (35 percent protein) diet. Fertilisers used are triple super phosphate (56 kg/ha) and cow manure (560 kg/ha), in addition limited liming of the ponds is practiced, using powdered limestone.
Rice-fish farming using the red strain of tilapia is practised on an experimental basis in Region 6, Berbice.
Fig. 1. Distribution and characteristics of the main aquaculture production sites by administrative units (National data, 2002)
Freshwater aquaculture is generally practiced using semi-intensive methods. There is great potential for expansion in this area, the key may well be identifying a species that provides enough income to make aquaculture competitive in comparison with other traditional activities.
Brackishwater farming practices have more in common with fishery enhancement than aquaculture. Practices involve the legal or illegal opening of the sea defences and by taking advantage of tidal inflows during high tides, juveniles, larvae, eggs, etc. are trapped in coastal polders and in some cases specially constructed enclosures near the foreshore where they are allowed to mature to marketable size. These impounded waters contain many species; some of those targeted include salmon shrimp (Mesopaeneus tropicalis), common snook (Centropomus undecimalis), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and mullet (Mugil spp.).
These brackishwater farms operate as extensive polyculture systems, yields fluctuate widely from year to year, with high rainfall being the key to a good yield by reducing the excessive salinity resulting from evaporation of the brackishwater. It should be noted that stocking densities are not known, there is limited pond management with no feeding, but with fertilization because cows are penned on these sites and their wastes remain to fertilize incoming waters. However, basic impoundment construction, predator exclusion, water management and harvesting techniques are employed. Even with limited management several crops, harvested every 8–9 weeks, are possible throughout the year.
The tilapias which occur in these systems are the descendants of stock originally introduced into these impoundments and ponds at various times over the decades, beginning back in the 1950s. Nowadays it is general practice to capture the established fish communities rather than stocking additional tilapias into these culture systems.
Yields of shrimp range from 0.5 to 1.9 tonnes per hectare, while yields of tilapia range from 0.1 to 0.9 tonnes per hectare.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Guyana according to FAO statistics:
Given that total annual aquaculture production is comparatively small at 600 tonnes, and local demand for aquaculture products is high, there has been no significant export of aquaculture products to date. The main centres for consumption of aquaculture produce are the local market towns, such as Anna Regina, Parika, Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall and Port Morant.
Supply chain and distribution channels
The majority of aquaculture products are sold at the local markets by the farmers themselves. Occasionally, middle-men purchase product from the farm gate which they then sell on at the local markets.
Labelling and certification
Currently there are no labelling or certification requirements specifically for aquaculture produce, however, all fishery products designated for export must be inspected by the Veterinary Public Health Unit of the Ministry of Health.
The Veterinary Public Health Unit also carries out microbiological tests on fishery products to ensure the quality of the product.
Aquaculture is still in the developmental stage. Data are not recorded separately for aquaculture but its contribution to the economy at present is considered negligible. While there is great potential for aquaculture to impact positively on the economy in terms of social and economic development, income generation and provision of employment, these effects will only be observed when the aquaculture industry has had a chance to develop further.
Aquaculture development in Guyana is the responsibility of the Research and Development Unit of the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock. The Fisheries Department is structured under four sub-programmes namely: (i) programme administration, (ii) legal and inspectorate, (iii) research and development and (iv) extension.Presently, there are several staff working with aquaculture. A senior fisheries officer based at the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre is responsible for the facility. This officer supervises a limnologist/hydro chemist, who is also based at the Mon Repos centre. Other staff directly involved in aquaculture are a fisheries field assistant and four fish station attendants.
Currently, there are no private sector aquaculture associations, however, there is an aquaculture farmer’s representative on the Fisheries Advisory Committee. The Fisheries Advisory Committee is a group of persons, from the fishing industry, selected by the Minister, to provide private sector input to the fisheries decision making process.
The Fisheries Act (1956, as amended in 1977) regulates fishing in the waters of Guyana. The Act does not contain any substantive provisions relating to aquaculture but does empower the Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock to make regulations on ‘the stocking of any water with fish and the establishment and control of fish hatcheries’ (section 33(1)), however, the minister has never used this power to this date.
Recently, a new draft Aquaculture Act has been prepared, which is scheduled to be presented soon to the National Assembly for passage into law. The proposed Act is comprehensive, provides a definition of aquaculture, regulates the licence procedure to engage in and set up aquaculture facilities and contains substantive provisions on enforcement, offences and penalties. The licence will be issued by the Chief Fisheries Officer who may impose conditions relating to:
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Guyana please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Guyana
Research priorities are set by the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock. Government-led research takes place mainly at the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre, which is the sole facility currently practicing aquaculture research.
The Mon Repos facility has been conducting research on several feeds, both local and imported, with red tilapia, Nile tilapia and atipa (Hoplosternum littorale). Research on determining the optimum stocking rate for Colossoma has also commenced.
Successful research has been carried out in the area of reproduction of H. littorale , and the rearing of the fry to fingerling stage.
Selected farmers also participate in research on behalf of the government, this is made possible by a collaborative effort between the Department of Fisheries and the Poor Rural Communities Support Services Project, an externally funded local project with a mandate to facilitate agriculture development in the Pomeroon-Supenaam and the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara regions. The selected farmers are provided with some inputs of juveniles, as well as technical support, from the Department of Fisheries and the Poor Rural Communities Support Services Project, in return they provide the remainder of the inputs, as well as the land. The data generated is then shared with the government, and consequently, with other farmers. Data from this on-farm participatory research is verified by comparing it with data obtained from parallel trials at the Mon Repos Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre and by actual data recorded by staff from the Fisheries Department when carrying out on farm visits. Information gained and lessons learned are passed onto farmers through holding training courses and by the production of simple pamphlets for distribution to farmers.
At present (2004/5), Project TCP/RLA/3003 (D) entitled “Introduction of aquaculture and other integrated production management practices to rice farmers” with the immediate objectives to (i) build capacity of rice extension staff to carry out IPM and aquaculture extension work, (ii) develop IPM strategies appropriate for small farmers through participatory Farmer Field School (FFS) training and action research; and (iii) integrate aquaculture into small rice-based farming systems to diversify production for increased income and improved nutrition. The project has been designed to demonstrate the aquaculture potential of tilapias in rice-based farming systems through on-farm demonstration.
At present there are no university based aquaculture related courses and there is only one technical institution, the Guyana School of Agriculture, which offers a single fish farming course as part of its Diploma in Agriculture syllabus.
As mentioned, aquaculture in Guyana is still in its developmental stage, recently however, there have been several developments which have impacted aquaculture expansion in Guyana, namely:
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Annual Report, 2001. Guyana Rice Development Board.
Abu-Adiya, N. 1997 . Overview of Aquaculture in Guyana and Proposals for Development. FAO/Department of Fisheries, Guyana.
National Development Strategy for Guyana, Chapter 13 – Fisheries Policy, 1997–2002. Ministry of Finance, Government of Guyana.
National Fisheries Management and Development Plan of Guyana, March 1995. Prepared by GTA Consultants Inc./Agrodev Canada Inc. in association with the Guyana Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Project 440/16650. (Draft).
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Plan for Managing the Marine Resources of Guyana. Fisheries Department , 1996-11 .
Report on the Design and Construction of a Freshwater Aquaculture Demonstration Farm and Training Centre. FAO Project TCP/GUY/8922, Jan 2000 - Jan 2002. (Unpublished).
FAO . 2005 . Aquaculture production, 2003. Yearbook of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.