The fisheries of many tropical nations are threatened by their country's international indebtedness, and as a result, the future of fishing communities is in jeopardy. Within the past three or four decades, fisherman have become totally dependent upon imported fuel, engines, boats, and spare parts/repair infrastructures, all of which were based upon access to foreign exchange. In many countries this critical hard currency is no longer readily available to fishermen. For example, Guyana, which has extraordinary fishery resources within its territorial waters, is particularly hard hit with a large foreign debt and soft currency. The artisanal fishermen find that fuel is becoming prohibitively expensive and engine spare parts are almost impossible to acquire. Collapse of the system is currently prevented by international aid organizations, such as the Canadian International Development Agency, making new motors available to the fishing cooperatives. This stop-gap measure is not expected to continue for much longer.
The International Monetary Fund has recently proposed another major devaluation of the Guyanese dollar which would limit even further their access to imported fuels and materials necessary to maintain their fleets. In theory the artisanal or coastal fishery could provide all of Guyana's protein needs, however, at the present time its marine resources are underutilized and many fishermen are nearly destitute. Unless a different approach to fisheries development is found, the situation can only worsen.
Guyana's problem is mirrored in various forms in many fishing countries, and the solution may be found in a traditional energy source.
The northeast trades blow year-round along the northeast corner of South America where Guyana is situated. Because wind power represents a genuine alternative for many regions, Ocean Arks International launched in 1979 a broad, multidisciplinary project to develop advanced design wind-powered fishing vessels.
Several design objectives were established at the outset. They were:
1. Components that required imported materials, and foreign exchange would be limited to 15% or less of the total cost of the vessels.
2. New wood-product technologies had to be found. They needed to be based upon easily planted and rapidly grown tree crops, and not on slow-growing, non-renewable noble woods which played a role in traditional boat construction and are now in short supply.
3. That the most advanced naval architectural and wind technologies be employed to create sail-powered working water craft capable of maintaining speeds equivalent to the motorized vessels they were intended to replace.
We felt that if the most modern engineering and materials science were applied to the challenge, then a new age of sail could come to the aid of fishermen. Further, we hoped to accomplish the task without adding to the ecological deterioration of the remaining tropical forests. Within the last year we have begun to achieve our technological and ecological objectives.
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