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Environmental activist Gary Aboud yesterday warned people to stop eating fish, since he now believes most of the fish population is being contaminated in the wake of last year’s Petrotrin oil spill. Aboud, secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), made the claim as he and other group members visited the office of the Environmental Management Authority, St Clair, to complain that dead fish have been found floating in the Gulf of Paria. He said the FFOS was concerned about the application of Corexit 9500, a dispersant used by Petrotrin after the December oil spill at La Brea, which could have possibly caused the recent fish kill there.
The fishermen were trying to deliver a letter to EMA chairman Allan Bachan about their concerns. They also wanted the EMA to take a quantity of dead fish and a dead pelican they brought with them for testing. The group had two coolers filled with mullet, catfish and other smaller fish. As the members of the FFOS reached the gates of the EMA, however, they were turned away by police. Their samples were also not taken by the EMA. Aboud took the dead fish out of the coolers, threw them on the pavement and spread out the wings of the dead pelican to show members of the media what he believed were symptoms which had led to their death.
In an interview outside the EMA office, Aboud said: “Thousands of fish are washing up on shore and every night, under the cover of darkness, they are sending tractors and burying the evidence.”
He accused the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) of refusing to disclose the results of previous tests on fish. Aboud added: “We have studied the impact of Corexit on the fish and it burst the blood vessels on the fish. This is a typical Corexit standard death. “The entire food chain is being affected and this is affecting us.” He said there was a massive cover-up by Government and various agencies and a committee that was appointed had not been keeping up to standards. “Some compensation has to be paid to our people and people should be warned not to swim in the water and not to eat fish until the IMA (Institute of Marine Affairs) can give an all-clear. The School Feeding Programme uses these fishes and people can die,” he added. He said the dead fish had been found around Otaheite, Cedros and La Brea. “The current goes to Venezuelan waters, where bigger fish would consume the dead fish and this could lead to major health problems,” he said.
Rahin Paragsingh, a member of the Brickfield Bay Fishing Association, said he was concerned about the lack of fish in the water. “We are only getting 15 to 20 pounds of fish after working nine hours a day. Two years ago we used to get up to 300 pounds of fish a day. Now is nothing. We only wasting time and nobody is going to compensate us for that,” he said. “It has to do with the seismic survey... I have bills to pay,” he added. In January, the fishermen had also tried to stop seismic surveys from taking place. These entail setting off underwater explosions and measuring the sound waves they cause to gauge where to explore for oil and gas. The EMA fined Petrotrin some $20 million over its role in and response to multiple oil spills in La Brea and environs last November.