As the carcasses of fish, pelicans and even a dolphin washed up on the beaches of La Brea last weekend, president of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association Alvin La Borde is pleading with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to conduct comprehensive studies on toxicity levels of the Gulf of Paria.
Speaking by telephone yesterday, La Borde said although many people blame Petrotrin's oil spill in December 2013, the washing up of dead fish in La Brea has been going on long before that incident.
However, he said it had been increasing in recent times and it was becoming extremely worrying as they feared the gulf may be contaminated.
Yesterday, Point Sable, Carat Shed Beach and Coffee Beach were feasting grounds for corbeaux as carcasses littered the shoreline for miles. A few beachgoers who gathered at Carat Shed Beach said they dared not enter the water as they were not sure if the beach was safe.
La Borde said: "We're not pointing fingers at any particular individual or company but we must be mindful that there are a lot of companies operating around the Gulf of Paria.
"The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) stated that companies are not sending in their water samples as they ought too. I don't know whose fault it is but I believe if the EMA is in charge, they need to enforce the rules.
"Fish sales have not dropped but we need to be sure that fish that are being put on families' tables are safe to eat. We are looking at people bathing on the beaches and they can come into contact with whatever chemicals are killing the fish and that will create another problem.
"Dead fish washing ashore is something that was taking place long before the oil spill so it is not to say everything that has happened since is because of the spill.
"EMA has to collect the proper samples from companies in the Gulf of Paria and they need to investigate what is killing the fish. They need to be more stricter with the companies they gave certificates of environmental clearance to because some of them are doing what they want."
EMA chairman Dr Allan Bachan said yesterday that samples of the carcasses have been taken for tests and as soon as results were ready, he would give a report. Asked whether the EMA believed there was a problem in the Gulf of Paria, he said there had been a history of natural oil seepage, which dated back over 100 years.
However, he said the cause of the fish kills were unknown as there were many industries that released waste into the gulf. "There are a number of parameters with regards to the Gulf of Paria because it has been a highly industrialised zone for over 100 years.
"One will remember that in the early days, a prevalent factor in the Gulf of Paria has been natural oil seepage. Knowing that is the natural make up of the Gulf of Paria, it is very difficult to say what exactly is the direct cause.
"You have that factor of industries in the area and you know, we as a society have not been a very caring one for the environment. The way forward is that we have to address this through proper enforcement and compliance.
"Enforcement will hurt people who pollute. Right now it is ridiculous in terms of the consequences as it cheaper to pollute than to put in place, proper measures," Bachan said.
He said the EMA was working on establishing water pollution rules for companies, adding that it has started to profile areas where super industrial entities exist so that it can determine their risks to the environment and it is also moving to establish a water lab so that it can have timely results of samples.