Last update: 06-Dec-2013 12:56 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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‘Stop seismic surveys in Gulf’
Fishermen exchanged their nets for placards yesterday as they hit the streets in Port-of-Spain to gain public support to stop oil companies from conducting seismic surveys at breedings grounds in the Gulf of Paria. “Seismic surveys are one of the worst things that could have happened to us,” said fisherman, Marcus Sarrant, at Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain, around 11.30 am yesterday.
The meeting was attended by more than 100 fishermen from all over T&T, some travelling from as far as Claxton Bay, Cedros, Chaguaramas and even Tobago. Armed with placards, many of the protesters said they had all come together to demonstrate solidarity among the fisherfolk of T&T and that the problems they were facing affected all fishermen across the board, including Tobago.
Sarrant, secretary of the T&T United Fisherfolk Society, said: “The effects of a seismic survey can last for months. Studies should be done first to determine the effects before any seismic survey is authorised.” A fisherman for 32 years, Sarrant said: “More than 10,000 fishermen's livelihoods will be affected, from Icacos to Chaguaramas.” Claxton Bay fisherman Bados Sooknanan shared Sarrant’s view on the survey.
He said: “It takes roughly six months. When they do the survey, all the fish is gone. It destroys the coral and the seabed. Fish have to come in from outside our waters for us to catch something.” Meanwhile, the fishermen were in full support of Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj’s move to ban trawling, agreeing that it was a major contributor to the rapidly depleting fish populations over the years. “For every pound of fish caught using trawlers, over 14 pounds of small fish is discarded in by-catch,” said Sooknanan.
He said if this had continued, fish would not have been able to regenerate their populations, especially since trawling destroys fish breeding grounds as well. Esook Ali, of Icacos, Cedros, called for the ban to be extended to all sizes of trawling nets, not merely Types III and IV, claiming that the smaller nets cause even more damage than the large ones.
Secretary of the South West Tobago Fishing Association, Carol Thomas, complained that oil company Centrica brought their oil rigs on the North Coast of Tobago six miles closer to shore. “Whatever they’re doing, it’s scattering the fish,” she said. She has been fishing for 23 years in several parts of Tobago, including Plymouth, Bon Accord, Speyside and Charlotteville. “We don’t even get a full basket of fish anymore. Most times all we pull up is seaweed,” Thomas said.
She said the oil company intended to come even closer inshore because they recently discovered more oil wells. Thomas said the fishermen had no input in the decision, and complained that they had no support in Tobago, receiving no reply from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) or from Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, when she wrote to them.
Fitzroy Black, also from Tobago, and fishing for 35 years, said: “Exactly where they put the oil rigs is where the fish go and spawn. We can't follow them because we have to stay five miles off the reef.”
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