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The low-lying marshlands of Icacos may be the key to returning Cedros to its former glory of being one of the most productive agricultural regions in Trinidad. Used as a route to traffic contraband from the Venezuelan mainland, the marshes are a natural saltwater lagoon, the only of its kind in the region. It is a haven for exotic birds, marine life and in some areas, lilies cover the marshlands in a wild exotic carpet of purple.
However, president of the Granville Community Council Shankar Teelucksingh believes the marshlands were more than picturesque beauty. With the gradual decline of the coconut and fishing industry, Teelucksingh said the marshes were ideal for domestic shrimp farming and aquaculture.
“We want the Government and private enterprises to work together to create salt and fresh water aquaculture. This will bring employment to Cedros because many people have no income with the closure of coconut and fish farming,” Teelucksingh said. He explained that the marshes churn with regular tidal intervals.
“All they need to do is set up the ponds and control the water flow. Aquaculture has worked very well in Venezuela, Ecuador and Dominican Republic,” Teelucksingh said. He added that aquaculture was on the People’s Partnership Government’s manifesto. “There has been heavy deterioration of fish in the Gulf and there must be management of trawling and the size of the nets used for fishing,” Teelucksingh said.
Another fisherman Esook Ali said aquaculture may save the livelihoods of many people. He said the peninsula had over 1,000 fishermen who were struggling to survive. Making reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ali said: “Why can’t we do like Chavez and have domestic fish farms?
If we cannot catch the fish at sea, we can grow them on the land. This will ease unemployment.” He said trawlers had already destroyed the seabed while pollution from oil companies was rampant.
Jerry Paradath, who has fished for several decades, said there must be a total ban on trawling. He also said there must be absolutely no fishing in reef areas and only floating nets should be used. “This is the only way we can get our fish stocks to increase. We also think that aquaculture will be successful,” Paradath said. He said T&T must have a common fishing agreement with Venezuela which will allow fishermen to cast nets two miles off the Venezuelan coast.
Minister of Marine Affairs Devant Maharaj said he was willing to discuss proposals with the fishermen. He said current regulations existed on trawling and fish net sizes but monitoring was difficult because of a shortage of labour. He called on the Public Service Commission to fill the vacancies in his ministry.
MORE ON CEDROS
Cedros was named by Spanish sailors who were bedazzled by the huge cedar trees that bordered one of the bays of the south-western peninsula. The term “cedros” is the Spanish term for cedars. Cedros was at one time one of the most productive agricultural areas in Trinidad. By 1849 agriculture was in full swing. The land was fit for sugar and coffee but cocoa, and later coconuts, were tried and these too flourished.
By the 1870s the education of the children in the Cedros area was now occupying the minds of the authorities and in 1874 the Government built the first school in the district. From the Spanish days right down to the 1880s, the predominant language spoken in Cedros was Spanish. In the late 1880’s Cedros, because of its produce, had become one of the chief ports of call of the round-the-island steamers. Today, agriculture does not play a big part in the economy of the area.
Most of the coconut estates have been abandoned with the exception of St Quintin, which provides coconuts for bakeries. The estates were riddled with the red palm disease which has caused the coconuts to stop producing.