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FISHERFOLK CONTINUE STRUGGLE by Cecil Paul

posted 17 Dec 2013, 08:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Dec 2013, 08:36 ]

Continued protests by fisher folk against marine seismic surveys by oil companies took another form with a candlelight vigil at the Port of Spain waterfront on Sunday night December 15, 2013. Mr. Gary Aboud of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) led the protest action. Two representatives of National Workers Union Rae Samuel and Cecil Paul gave solidarity and support to the fisher folk.

 

Fisher folk from several areas of the country gave testimonies on the steep decline in their catches. The fishing industry employs some fifty thousand citizens of the country and they attribute this drop to the undersea air bombings which not only cause migration of mature sea animals, but also kill off their eggs. One protestor reported a decline from seven hundred pounds to two hundred pounds for a particular fishing period.

 

These extensive and continuing surveys are being conducted by several foreign and local companies around the seas of Trinidad and Tobago in their pursuit of offshore deposits of oil and gas with no concern for the negative consequences.

 

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) seems to be unsure about the impact such surveys will have on our country’s ability to

supply and sustain our peoples’ demand for fresh fish. So far they are inconclusive and have not instituted Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for these activities.

 

Successive governments have failed to make any impact on diversifying our economy away from our deep dependence on oil and gas. As a result all our governments have adopted a policy of “drill baby drill” with no concerns for the damage to our environment or for the possibilities of disastrous oil spills. From all indications they (our governments) are controlled and dictated to by the transnational oil barons who in reality have no concerns for our environment and are only interested in their big profits, which they repatriate.

 

Some fisher folk have reported that some oil companies are offering them compensation for the decline of their catches and their resultant loss of income and employment. But the money offered is for a limited time of not more than six months and does not cover the losses sustained. The foreign oil magnates and our puppet government are obviously worried that the fisher folk’s protests will gain national support and are attempting to bribe the fisher folk to take a “small money”, stay quiet, look for another job and move on. After all we can import all the seafood we need with our oil and gas dollars.

 

Another strategy being used by the government is to intimidate the fisher folk through banning their protest actions, arresting their leaders and charging them for breaking the law through the invocation of the old colonial Summary Offences legislation used to suppress our ancestors in colonial times and which still remains on our law books. The leaders of the fisher folk are due to appear in court on Wednesday December 18, 2013. 

 

 The government and the oil companies seem to believe that our people don’t care about a few thousand fishermen and their struggle to protect their occupation, preserve the seas around our islands and supply the nation with healthy sea food. They seem to think the fisher folk protests will soon peter out and die.

 

We, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, need to come to terms with the fact that we live on two small islands and the sea and our environment is critical to our living standards and our recreation. One major oil spill can destroy our beaches and kill our sea life. We have a responsibility to protect our seas and its food from exploitation and abuse by oil companies whose owners and big boys care only for the profits they amass from excessive drilling. We need to speak out and act in defence of our environment. We need to support the fisher folk!

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