Augustine: US Navy vessel, not BHP, damaged fishing equipment

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. has blamed a US Navy vessel for damage to equipment owned by Tobago fishermen.

In June, All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) president Curtis Douglas alleged that an energy company had affected the livelihoods of fishermen at the eastern end of Tobago by doing a geotechnical survey on May 12. Douglas had called for adequate compensation for loss of equipment.

But Augustine, speaking on Tobago Channel Five’s Rise and Shine Programme on Tuesday, said, “The issue where the fishermen were claiming that BHP Billiton had vessels that moved in the space and destroyed their FADs (fish aggregating devices) and so on – when the investigation was done, the company was not BHP Billiton, that was actually a US Navy vessel passing within the space.”

He said that information was also passed on to ATFA.

“So now they know that it really didn’t have to do with an oil company so with all their protest up in Speyside and all the noise that they make, it had nothing to do with an oil company at all. It is a foreign entity, a foreign government entity passing through the waters.”

He said he met with ATFA recently and gave them the assurance that he would pass on the information to the US Embassy, and also request a meeting with embassy officials and the affected fisherfolk.

“I think they should – I think they would be more than willing to have that conversation. So that is being resolved as we speak.”

Contacted on Wednesday, Douglas said the proposed meeting would give fisherfolk the opportunity to put their issues on the table.

“Hopefully the Chief Secretary would take action, writing to the US Embassy or the US representative on behalf of ATFA and hopefully the grave damages that they may have caused to the fishing industry of Tobago, they would compensate us for our damages. We are counting on the Chief Secretary to spearhead this and to lead because Tobago has been asking for leadership all this time, so we expect him to take the front. We’ll be right behind him.”