Two Guyanese registered fishing vessels and their crew have been detained by the Venezuelan Navy after being seized offshore Guyana within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Government of Guyana is looking for answers and wants the vessels and their crew released by Venezuela.
The interception and detention of the fishing vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, took place on Thursday.
In a midnight release on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the vessels were operating off the coast of Waini Point within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan Naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez.
According to the statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Guyana, the Captains of the two Guyanese fishing vessels were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria in Venezuela where the boats and crew have been detained.
“To date, the Government of Guyana has not been informed by the Government of Venezuela of the detention of its nationals”, the statement said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has indicated that it is currently seeking to ascertain the status and welfare of the crew members
The Government of Guyana had condemned the action by the Venezulelan navy and said the Venezuelan vessel was illegally manoeuvring within Guyana’s EEZ and Contiguous Zone when it intercepted, boarded and commandeered the Guyanese fishing vessels.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “Guyana condemns in the strongest possible terms this wanton act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens. This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law. It is noted that this latest hostility follows closely on the heels of a Decree recently issued by President Nicolas Maduro which purports to establish “a new maritime territory of Venezuela called ‘Territory for the development of the Atlantic Façade’”, encompassing Guyana’s territorial waters, EEZ and continental shelf, as well as its land territory west of the Essequibo River”.
Guyana has condemned the latest Venezuelan Decree, describing it “as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty and sovereign rights, and of fundamental rules of international law”.
Guyana has also moved to inform CARICOM and the United Nations and its other international partners about the Venezuelan decree.
The move by the Venezuelan Navy to intercept and seize the Guyanese fishing vessels and crew is likely to escalate the already tense relationship between the two countries.
Two weeks ago, the Coast Guard of the Guyana Defence Force and the US Coast Guard carried out joint patrols in Guyana’s waters to stamp out illegal fishing.
While Venezuelan objected, it did not interfere with the operation.
The Government of Guyana in condemning the fishing vessels seizure said Venezuela and its agents must behave in a manner that is consistent with international law and good neighbourly relations.
Guyana has moved to inform the international community of the actions of the Venezuelan Navy, which has undermined Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.