With several fishermen going out of business in San Fernando, San Fernando Fishing Cooperative president Salim Gool is calling for an island-wide fishing strike in the hope that this will force the Government to reduce gas prices for fisherfolk.
If Gool’s call is successful, this could mean no fresh fish in any fishing depot or marketplace across the country.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Gool said so far, their calls have fallen on deaf ears.
“Without this subsidy, we cannot survive,” Gool said.
Since the price of gas went up on April 19, there have been protests at fishing villages and ports, including Guayaguayare, Bonasse, Fullerton, Claxton Bay, Carli Bay, Orange Valley, King’s Wharf and Moruga.
Gool said they no longer have access to the cheap regular gas, adding it now costs between $1,200 to $1,500 to go on one fishing trip.
Gool said: “We do not think the Government is taking us seriously. Since April 22, we called for a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture Land and Fisheries and he has not responded. We are now calling for a strike of fishing islandwide.”
He added: “All fishermen have to get together to get that done. The price of gas is really too high for fishermen. Here in the Gulf of Paria, when a boat run for one hour and 15 minutes, it burns 70 litres of gas. In the dry season, we have to work two times the amount of gas—140 litres of gas, that costing more than $1,000.”
Gool said because of the high costs of fishing, gillnet fishermen were no longer venturing out to catch prime fish like carite, kingfish, ancho and pompano.
“There is an increase in fishing boats doing cutlass fishing. Everyone is investing in that because catching the cutlassfish is easier and nearer to the shore,” Gool added.
He explained that the unemployment rate was rising and fishermen had no other choice but to “sit down home.”
“People cannot go fishing at night either because pirates will hold you up. There are things that could have been done to make it easier for us. The price of gas didn’t have to go so high and regular gas didn’t have to go off the market. Too many things happening. No protection for us,” Gool said.
Another fisherman, Wayne Russel, said he may have to leave the fishing business.
“It is just not feasible to fish from here anymore. You could spend $1,200 on gas and then go out and hit a blank, no fish or just enough fish to buy back ten litres of gas. That not right,” Russel said.
He explained that although the Coast Guard is supposed to do patrols all around the island daily, this is not happening.
“We should not even have piracy in the Gulf because we have a Coast Guard base in Cedros and Chaguaramas. They say there is a police unit patrolling the shallows but we don’t ever see them,” Russel said.
Guardian Media has been reaching out to Energy Minister Stuart Young for comment but there has been no response to calls and messages. Minister of Agriculture Kazim Hosein also could not be reached for comment yesterday.