Maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso says the imposition of the state of emergency (SoE) will redound to fishermen's benefit since they are victims of crime on land and sea. Alfonso said she was also sympathetic to the anglers' exorbitant financial and stock losses. The curfew has been imposed along 362 kilometres of the coastline-extending to three nautical miles. Recently, fishermen from Toco to Icacos complained vehemently about losing income as a result of the SoE. To offset their losses, the authorities introduced Coastal Zone restriction passes.
Interviewed on Friday, Alfonso said: "When the first curfew came out, I imagine it would have been extremely difficult. The new permutation is you can stay out but you have to remain moored (at anchor). It is unfortunate there is a loss of revenue. But the majority has to give way." Alfonso added: "Fishermen are victims of crime both on land and sea. Their security is important even if it is for a short period. I'm always sympathetic to them because they get robbed of their fish. They are subject to pirates and Coast Guard searches. People come and steal their engines and their catch. Fishermen have always been a prime target for crime. I would hope they would be supportive of the patrols on sea and at land."
To compound it, fishermen have to deal with the Venezuelan authorities and the Guardia Nacional. In a previous interview (May 25) fishermen at Cedros and Icacos claimed drug dealers masquerading as fishermen are making life difficult for them. They believe it might have led to seven of them being held while fishing off Soldado Rock and thrown into a Venezuela jail. Alfonso also deemed most of the fishing "artisan", to describe small scale fishing using pirogues and nets.
She said it took place six or eight miles out to sea. "Coastal fishing takes place much further out than that. If they are fishing within a three mile radius, one hopes it would be sufficient to go out and stay anchored. Many fishermen fish in the Exclusive Economic Zone which is 200 miles from the land." On the flip side, Alfonso said: "I imagine the curfew is the straw that broke the camel's back. I always say I don't want to be a fisherman. The life of a fisherman is hard."
Fishermen lose $$
Meanwhile, Toco fishermen like Caleb Moore continue to complain about their losses. He said: "Even when we take the fish to the Arima market, people are not buying it. Down at Salybia, we lost about 350 lbs ($20 per lb). We can't go and pick up the nets. Raphal Lakhan said: "We are under strain and pressure. The fishermen came in with $ 25,000 worth of fish. And out of it all they got was $1,500. It is not cutting it." Middle man Lyndon Julien said he is aware only one boat was going out at Salybia. "Most of the guys are not going out. They are looking for Cepep work." Instead of the Arima market, Julien headed into Port-of-Spain to sell his fish.
Fishermen can apply for Coastal Zone Restriction Passes at the Coast Guard Security Office, Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain. Fishermen who wish to set off before 11 pm and anchor until 4 am, don't need permits. There is no additional fee for application or processing. For further info call 634-3138.