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REGULATE SEISMIC SURVEYS! by Diane Christian-Simmons

posted 20 Oct 2013, 09:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Oct 2013, 14:27 ]
The article published below is an edited version of a speech delivered by Diane Christian-Simmons, the president of the Cocorite fishing facility and Fish Market Association. Diane describes herself as “the wife of a fisherman from a fishing family who has spent his 50 plus years on these waters.” She further described herself as “a fisherwoman for just close to 20 years.” 
I love my job as a fisherwoman, however, my livelihood, and the livelihood of thousands of others, is in danger, as many of us, ordinary citizens and fishers alike, do not value our sea and marine life enough, and as such, it is being taken away from us by the devastation taking place right in front of our noses. 
We the conscious fisher folk (and I mean no disrespect ) of Trinidad and Tobago are asking, no, we are demanding, as it is our right to demand, proper regulations for seismic surveys in our waters and please do not disrespect us and try to hood-wink us as is the norm.
We ask that seismic surveys be regulated by the environmental management authority, and include a proper environmental impact assessment which must be done before any certificate of environmental clearance is approved for any seismic survey. We ask that the government of our beautiful country, work with us fishers and those whose livelihoods depend on our fishery to conserve, protect and enhance our fishery for the benefit of all our people. 
Despite our lobbying campaign, hand delivered letters and other documents showing the devastating results of seismic surveys found by the limited research done in other countries, but whose findings are so scary, to our prime minister, the EMA and others, they have all chosen to turn a blind eye as no real interest is being taken. 
As a matter of fact since those documents were delivered and our prime minister gave the assurance that she will look into the issue, an oil company has announced, and are moving ahead with, plans to begin seismic surveys for a period of 8 months in our waters. They have announced that they are beginning on November 1st of this year. 
Summary Review and Comment on Application to Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC/3963-2013) by Petroleum Company of Trinidad & Tobago (Petrotrin) to carry out a 3-Dimensional Seismic Survey of a 510 KM2 Area in the south-west Soldado Fields and North Marine Field in the Gulf of Paria (GOP). Prepared by Cathal Healy-Singh.
 Cathal Healy-Singh is a Civil and Environmental Engineer by training with twenty-four years of experience combining technical, socio-economic and environmental aspects of development in management.
He has worked with  donor and other multilateral organisations, national governments, private sector, local elected village councils, and community based organizations, including indigenous peoples, in all thirteen members of Caricom.
These blows to the fishing sector are not just deadly to us but also for our country as conducting seismic surveys over the years in the manner which they are being done, continues to affect the spawning, feeding, hearing, migration and ultimately the stock of fish. 
Seismic surveys have been found to kill adult fish as well as their larvae and eggs. For us fishers, a huge drop has occurred over the years that seismic surveys have been done, and continues to occur for long periods of time even after the survey is complete and not just for a few hours as has been the claim, and has been told to the fishers on the south coast by the oil company. Our income is adversely affected. Fishing is our life line. If we lose it, then we too are lost. Our very lives are being trivialized, neglected and ignored.
Our government together with the oil and gas industry are bringing to an end not just our fishery but our fishers as well. Soon the only way children in our land will know what a fish looks like or a fisherman is from pictures in a book, unless they do not hold their hands and put the proper measures in place needed to protect our fishery and our fishers, then they are systematically dismantling the fishing sector of Trinidad and Tobago. 
Unlike many, we fishers dread the slog of life in an office. Our great job satisfaction is anticipating a day of hard, physical labour, where the fresh air, the movement of the sea, the wind and the rain, the sun and the smell of the water combined, is the natural rhythm of our work and our lives. We look forward to that on a daily basis. But our opportunities are dwindling. Fish is growing more and more scarce by the day and our catch is being snatched from us by seismic surveys and the callousness of the governments entrusted with our well being. 
It is pure and simple injustice that we take the pain and make the kind of sacrifices that we make daily to be treated with such indifference, callousness and insensitivity. So we say, wake up citizens of T&T: recognize the injustice of our situation, respect us as the hard working people that we are and fight with us to save the 52,000 plus, lives and families! 

We don’t just want to hear about meagre compensation for our financial hardships. We want to fish, living the way we’ve lived for thousands of years. This is our legacy, our right and what we know best. It seems to be a case of feeding the rich and depriving the less privileged. We are scattered all over Trinidad and Tobago which makes it easy to divide, fool and conquer us to get us out of their way as they have done just last week with our fellow fishers on the south coast, who accepted the untruths and inadequate packages dangled at them, as we once did, because of their financial distress and ignorance, just as ours, distress which is counted on to weaken our resolve and fool you, the public. 
When the scrap money done, what will be left for us to go back to? We will continue to lobby until our government hears our voice, the voice of the people that they have sworn to serve. We are their employers. 
Seismic surveys must be regulated now!!!! Our fishery cannot wait another year much less twenty years before someone in government has an epiphany and does the right thing. Our life is the sea, our skin and bones are salted by decades on the sea.   
We Trinbagonians need to value our own environment, our own fishery and protect it from those who are raping and murdering it, leaving behind nothing but a barren wasteland for us and our future generations. Will we as a nation continue to be complacent and allow our own governments and foreigners who have no vested interest in us as a people, to continue to rob and destroy our legacy and livelihoods? 

We need to put aside our ignorance and petty differences, stand firm together for together we stand but divided we fall and fight together for our heritage, to sustain our fishery by first demanding that our government make it a priority and do two things: 
(1) Prioritize the ban on trawling and implement it quickly and completely and

(2) Implement the same regulations here as in Canada. 

Why Canada’s regulations? Because based on the international guidelines set out, Canada’s regulations are the most stringent on the oil companies, and as such their fishery and fishers are highly protected, and looking at the state of our fishery, I believe with all my heart and soul that adopting Canada’s measures is the only hope we have of reviving and protecting our fishery, the only way that both the oil and gas sector can co-exist with our fishery. 
We must maintain our rights, we must not be willing to lie down and die without a fight, our fishery is under serious threat. It is facing certain extinction and it is up to us, the national community, to do all that it takes to protect it. 
With this in mind I invite all of you to come and join us, bring your family, bring your friends, tell your neighbours and your co-workers, join our protest action once again as we fight for our right to fish, to be respected and treated equally to the fishers of countries such as Canada, Ireland, England, USA and Australia. 
By boat and on land, on Thursday 24th October 2013!
On land gathering at the breakfast shed on the waterfront Port of Spain 10.00 a.m.!
By boat gathering at the Cocorite fishing facility for 9.00 a.m.!
Gerry Kangalee,
20 Oct 2013, 09:52