Cash-strapped Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is now saddled with a $5 billion debt.
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Fishermen ‘jacking up’ prices
Otaheite fish vendors say they are reeling from significant losses, as they are being made to pay exorbitant prices for stocks which consumers are refusing to buy out of fear since the December 17 oil spill. On Monday, vendors at the fishing depot complained to the T&T Guardian that they are at the mercy of east and north coast fisherfolk because no boats along the oil-spill-affected south-western peninsula are venturing out into the Gulf of Paria.
Now, they said, fishermen on the east and north coasts have been “jacking up” fish prices since the oil spill and vendors had no choice but to pass the increased prices onto consumers. Vendor Raj Persad, 28, said vendors have found themselves between a rock and a hard place because they are now paying higher fish prices for stock which consumers are afraid to buy.
“Since the oil spill no boats going out and we only catching small catfish near the (sea) wall by the depot. Since they put it in the papers that the fish in the Gulf not good, sales gone down drastically. Right now nothing (no boats) coming in here a month and a half now,” Persad lamented. He said with no boats going out along the south-western peninsula, vendors have been going out to areas such as Moruga, Guayaguayare, Mayaro and as far as Carenage, in search of fish to sell.
But Persad said fishermen there have been hiking up their prices to extract more money. “Normally fish that does sell for $30 a pound, now we have to pay $40 and $45 a pound. We used to make $3,000 and $4,000 on a weekend selling fish. Now if we get $1,200 or $200 during the week, that is plenty. Sales drop by 80 per cent and prices gone up,” he said.
Avinash Battoo, 25, another fish vendor, said the situation is expected to worsen since Moruga fishermen are complaining that their fishing stock was dwindling and pretty soon they will only have enough for their own customers. “Right now, if you do not know anybody down there, you will not get fish. It is only if you have a relationship with the fishermen there you might be lucky to get some fish,” he said. Persad pointed to his stall which contained some small sharks, salmon and tuna, which he said he bought in Erin.
One customer, who bought a salmon from Persad, lamented, “Prices too high, prices too high.”
Contractors using bulldozers and heavy equipment were busy at work on Monday clearing the shoreline along Aripero mangrove, which is still caked with oil. While the sand appeared to have been returned to its healthy brown hue, the mangrove roots on the outskirts of the once-teeming wetland were still oil-stained when the T&T Guardian visited. Trucks were being loaded with crushed mangrove trees that had been cleared during the oil spill’s clean-up operations. Hungry seagulls circled above as workmen cleared up the oil.
Oil-stained fishing boats were seen lined up along Carrat Shed beach waiting to be cleaned. At Point Sable, clean-up operations appeared to be at a standstill because of heavy rain and high tides.
Residents still waiting
Coffee Beach residents are still awaiting clearance from Petrotrin to resume cooking. Errol Lee, 76, said residents are still in the dark on just when they will be allowed to “bubble a pot.” He said meals are still being provided daily for residents, but he is anxiously awaiting the moment when he can start cooking his “home food.”
While Lee said he was satisfied with the clean-up efforts along Coffee Beach, he was dissatisfied with the condition of the road in front of his home. He said the heavy trucks which have been used in the oil-spill mopping-up operations have left potholes and he wants them repaired.
“They should come and fix back the road. They barbergreen up to a point and they leave this area with holes. When the rain fall, that water splashing up on my walls. The rocks and reef still have oil on it and when the tide come up that splashing on my walls. I paint for Christmas, you know,” Lee lamented. “It really getting bad.”
Shawn Edmund, chairman of the Bay Boys Association, threatened to protest and take legal action against Petrotrin, which he said had not compensated fishermen on the bay for their oil-damaged boats, nets and engines.
“We have been asking for a meeting with Petrotrin to discuss compensation, but they are not willing to meet with us, he said.