RADHICA DE SILVA
Two days after pirates attacked a group of fishermen on the high seas during curfew hours and threw them overboard, fishermen from South and Central Trinidad are calling on the government to set up a Coast Guard base off the Claxton Bay port.
This follows a series of pirate attacks on the Gulf of Paria, which has left fishermen fearful for their lives.
On Thursday around 1 am, gunmen intercepted a 28-foot pirogue-named “Tristan, Jeron & Nicholai”, registered TFV 5250, some six miles off the Claxton Bay port. They reportedly threw Captain Desmond Belfast overboard at gunpoint.
Belfast told police that the gunmen fired shots, but he managed to take cover and sought refuge from a passing vessel. The gunmen escaped with the boat, nets and catch.
A father and a son from Woodland, who were fishing that same night, also were accosted, and thrown overboard. They managed to escape, and their stolen boat subsequently was recovered.
Another fisherman from Otaheite also was robbed and beaten on Thursday.
Speaking to Guardian Media, the vice president of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association, Bhadose Sooknanan, said they wanted a Coast Guard base set up near the port to protect fishermen from Kings Wharf, Carli Bay, Orange Valley and Claxton Bay.
"We have been calling for this for a long time now and the Fisheries Division and the Ministry of National Security have not listened to us. We want a base in the Central region so that regular patrols could be done, so fishermen will not be at the mercy of thugs, pirates and illegal smugglers," Sooknanan said.
He explained that pirate attacks will continue unless something is done.
Meanwhile, secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, Gary Aboud, said a $10,000 confidential reward has been offered to anyone who assists in recovering the stolen boat, engine and nets.
"Last night, four vessels were stolen at sea and fishers thrown overboard in the dark of night, and yet our government has not acted on a single recommendation made in 2019 by the government-convened stakeholder committee," Aboud said in a statement.
He added: "How many more must die? We continue to appeal for good public administration and are disturbed that our PM did not reply to our letter of recommendations hand-delivered to his office."
Anyone wanting to assist in the recovery of the stolen items can contact the St Margaret's Police Station at 659-2530, or call the FFOS at 355-7672.