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Activist arrested during seismic surveys protest
Businessman Gary Aboud, secretary of the Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) activist group, was arrested yesterday whilst protesting against seismic surveys at the Waterfront, Port-of-Spain. Aboud was detained along with environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh and another fisherman for disturbing the peace, after police asked Aboud to stop chanting through a bullhorn because Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was said to be close by at the Hyatt, hosting former New York City police chief William Bratton.
Aboud and others proceeded, however, to sing the national anthem through the bullhorn and the three were promptly arrested and taken to CID, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. During the protest, Aboud had rejected the Ministry of Food Production’s announcement of a committee to look into seismic surveys as a “delay tactic,” and said the activists were preparing to take the Government and Petrotrin to court.
At the protest, the third of its kind, Aboud said his community of fisherfolk were prepared to take direct action to stop Petrotrin’s next seismic survey, due to begin on December 1 in the Soldado fields. “We are not going to attend the committee and we are not going to appoint anybody. We reject the committee,” Aboud told the T&T Guardian.
This was a reference to the composition of the committee proposed by Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj, which will include two scientists appointed by the fishing groups and 14 consultants from the energy sector, the Government and UWI. Aboud felt this constituted an unbalanced working group. “All of these are government appointees. We don’t have any say in who is being appointed,” he said.
Instead, he wants the committee to comprise three people: One scientist selected by the Government, one by the fishing folk and a third selected after agreement between the two scientists. “We want a committee to review the scientific data,” Aboud told the crowd, “but stop the seismic bombing until the data is properly analysed. The Government says ‘no, bomb out the sea and the committee will advise us at some time in the future.’ That’s no good. We want the seismic bombing to stop.”
Asked how he proposed to effect change for the fishing community and fish stocks if he did not engage with the committee, Aboud said: “How we are going to affect change is we are going to take the Government to court. “The Government is planning to give approvals on December 1. Petrotrin has boasted that they are going to start surveying in the Soldado fields for six months.
“We are not going to allow the seismic bombing to continue. We are just warming up with this activity. We have other things planned. We do not intend to allow the Government to destroy the fisheries.” Asked if he was prepared to take direct action to stop the surveys, he said: “We are going to take many kinds of direct action.”
When it was put to him that the energy sector brought in billions of dollars in revenue compared to the thousands from the fishing industry, Aboud said: “We are not threatening the oil sector. They have done 59 seismic surveys and they have done it all wrong. We ask them to start doing it right. “The oil and gas that is in the ground is not going to be lost. It will be there six months from now after the EIA is done.
“We are simply saying leave it in the ground until you can act properly. The precautionary principle is embodied by law in the Environmental Management Act and the Government are obligated to observe it.” Aboud said there were safer ways to do seismic surveys that did not affect fish stocks. “You do studies to determine where the fish migrate, when and where they spawn, where the nurseries are and you have to stay away from those areas. The Government is not collecting data.”