Environmentalists, lawyers, call for ocean ecocide laws

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud, left, and a media team on the Gulf of Paria. –

TT environmentalists and lawyers are lobbying to have the genocide of oceanic bodies and lifeforms for profit, or ecocide, made an eighth core crime along with murder, extermination, torture, acts of sexual violence and enforced disappearance of people.

Attorneys Justin Sobian and Sarik Maharaj joined with philanthropists John and Antoinette Vermilye and Gary Aboud of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) to discuss how oceanic ecocide laws could help protect Caribbean waters at CrewsInn, Chaguaramas, on September 7.

Vermilye said fishing companies from ten nations including China and Spain were responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s fish catch, almost half of which was discarded before it reached land.

“We extract half the world’s weight in fish annually and we put nothing back. Ten nation’s are responsible for 90 per cent of that catch but their practices are mostly illegal. Fishing capacity has increased exponentially over the last 30 years. Fishes have nowhere to rest, reproduce or respite. They are being exterminated to the last of their species.”

Sobian said the environment, in this case the ocean, had a right to exist.

“Our planet is over 70 per cent water, so it is a bit of a misnomer when we call our planet earth; it should, instead be called water. The ocean is the lifeblood of the earth. Scientists have proven that even carrying someone to the ocean could bring them a certain amount of calm.”

But Aboud said, while the cause was noble, it had to be met with a certain amount of urgency.

“I listened to the presentations and it sounds like eco 101,” he said.

“The environmental degradation that will cause ten per cent of the world’s islands to go under the ocean, millions of people being displaced and a phenomenal poverty and hardship on many is one component of the decadence that we live in.”

He said, given the fact that there was an intrinsic link to the bad practices of several fishing companies abroad and more so in TT, and the fact that fishing also provided food and a livelihood for many, attempting to address the eco-issues that plagued the planet might not bring about the result the group would desire.

“We have a mouth full of cavities, and it is based on a whole string of poor administrative and poor structure for functions.

“There must be a deep sense of urgency. The degradation of our planet is happening now. I have seen it in my lifetime, and I shudder to think of what younger generations will see in theirs.”