Shrimp trawling in Trinidad and Tobago occurs at the expense of all other fisheries. For over a decade, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) has argued that shrimp trawling is not sustainable in a multi-species ecosystem and results in the destruction of benthic organisms, juveniles of every fish species, coral reefs, nurseries and spawning grounds. Trawlers scrape and drag the seabed, leaving an oceanic desert in their wake where only the hardiest of species, for example catfish and eel, can survive. This is indisputable. Data shows that in Trinidad 14.71 pounds of juvenile fish are discarded for each pound of shrimp that is landed; 20 per cent more waste than the next highest by-catch discard in the world (Source: Greenpeace Archives: Bycatch and Discards of Unwanted Fish. Retrieved from http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/fish/part6.html).
This is as far from sustainable as possible. Five months after Vasant Bharath was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, he held public consultations with fishery stakeholders. There was not a single body present to support the idea of continued shrimp trawling. It was unanimous that our Government must assist the trawler owners in converting their vessels into other forms of fishing. It is understood that the fishery has been so devastated by trawling that not even the trawlers are economically viable and are already engaged in other types of "industry," as recently revealed with diesel transportation capacities. FFOS is now calling on the Government to follow the example of progressive nations regionally, and ban shrimp trawling completely and indefinitely.
According to the World Resources Institute in its State of the World Report, "shrimp trawling can be likened to dynamite fishing in terms of sustainability." FFOS maintains that science must guide legislation, and legislation must guide policy. Daily, our catch is diminishing in almost all of our landing sites, and time is running out for our fisheries resources. Mr Minister, prompt action is required. If we are to regenerate or sustain our fishery economy in the short term, we must work quickly in banning the depleting and unsustainable shrimp trawling within our waters.