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Aftermath of December oil spills: FFOS ponders legal action
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea is exploring its options to see if it can bring legal action against Petrotrin in wake of the La Brea oil spill in December last year. The organisation’s secretary Gary Aboud made the statement during a press conference at Woodford Square in Port-of-Spain yesterday. “We are in the process of consulting with counsel and preparing a legal action, because we are being forced into a position where Petrotrin and the chairman of the IMA (Institute of Marine Affairs) are avoiding us,” he said. “We are the primary stakeholders of the ocean. We have not been consulted and we have not been allowed to be represented on the task force.”
In February, the Government set up a National Environmental Assessment Task Force (NEATF) to oversee the activities necessary to address the environmental impacts of the oil spill. “The National Trust, who is about protecting buildings, they are sitting on the special task force to investigate the oil spill. They don’t know about a bonito, a herring…nothing,” Aboud said. He said two months ago the committee promised to produce a report, the deadline for which was yesterday. “Where is the report? Where can it be seen? Are we supposed to eat sick fish?” Aboud asked.
Aboud said the group also planned to intensify its protests because several fishermen who were promised compensation had not received any to date. He also called on President Anthony Carmona to intervene. “You cannot destroy a livelihood and just walk away freely. People have had to resort to doing all sort of unusual things…they are driving taxi, they are doing woodwork, they are hustling at construction sites. “Their incomes are being destroyed and the health of the country is seriously at stake,” Aboud said. He distributed a four-page letter to the media in which the organisation said it concluded a survey of the spill. The results, Aboud said, showed an 80 per cent overall average drop in catch rates.
“The range of the collapse was from a 95 per cent high in Carli Bay to a low of 45 per cent in San Fernando,” Aboud added. He claimed as of April 7 Petrotrin had stopped paying compensation to the three most affected communities. He also warned: “The oil that is in the water is deadly. The EMA is claiming that everything is normal, and go ahead and eat the fish, but there are fishermen who are selling bad fish. “Petrotrin and the prime minister must come out of the closet and come into the light of honesty and admit the liability that they have created,” Aboud said.
Bhadose Sooknanan of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association said the majority of fishermen did not receive compensation. “Claxton Bay, Marabella, Carli Bay, San Fernando…nobody gets nothing. Right now in Claxton Bay we have net messed up with oil. We go out to sea we catching a oily muddy substance. “Fishermen cussing me from since Easter to now that we in Claxton Bay get money and up to now we get nothing,” Sooknanan said. Petrotrin said it had spent some $35 million to clean up the spill.