TADCO uses set-nets to revitalise Tobago’s bait industry

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Fishermen inspect the set-nets in a container at Shaw Park, Tobago last Thursday. – Photo courtesy THA

PLYMOUTH has been selected as the base for the revitalisation of the bait industry in Tobago, to reduce imports from St Vincent.

On Thursday, Tobago Agri-Business Development Company Ltd (TADCO) board of directors displayed a set-net, which was donated to Tobago 20 years ago by Japan, at their compound in Shaw Park.

Set-net fishing, according to TADCO’s chairman Ricardo Alfred, is a passive fishing method that relies on fish swimming into nets that are set up in their natural habitat.

“It is designed to allow a certain size of fish to pass, and trap a certain size.”

It is a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of catching fish without actively chasing them, he said.

“It is a community-based type of involvement meaning that the community is supposed to provide some kind of security. They would definitely provide some much-needed revenue for the community as well as some employment.

He said stakeholders would be consulted to ensure safe removal of turtles and other species that are inadvertently caught, and they would be placed back into their natural habitat.

He said the set-nets will involve community service among villages to help build capacities.

“I am grateful for the various associations, persons who would be involved in the set-nets when it is set-up. We have a lot of divers who are going to be on board with us so the aim of it is not really spending government’s money, but it is really to get the involvement of the communities and the stakeholders.”

Asked why Plymouth was selected, Alfred said 20 years ago some research was done and Plymouth, Castara and Parlatuvier were identified as ideal locations.

“So in the initial stage, what is going to happen, we are going to utilise Plymouth and then carry it to different locations, because it is designed to do that…

“The longline (fishing) industry is now regulated – and it must be live bait, so it would have a lot of vessels from Trinidad coming across as well to get bait. We only have one or two vessels in Tobago, so the majority would definitely be coming from Trinidad and create some much-needed revenue for the island.”

He said TADCO intends to meet with communities as well making them aware of what a set-net is and do a lot of training in communities to let them know how to use the set-net, noting that it is a very labour-intensive type net.

“The vision going forward is creating that industry that is not dependent on any country or any entity – this is just one step; the next step is doing a very large processing plant. It’s different baby steps to get to the bigger picture. I think this is definitely, this is the perfect opportunity.”

He said regulation of the new industry would develop once more information is obtained.

“Data would have to be taken as to how many fish we catch, the type of fish; that type of information is going to go into (Department of) Fisheries and then we’ll definitely get some new regulations going forward, so it’s a very good trial basis.

“Normally these types of trials would basically take six months to a year before you can really see some kind of proper data, and from that data we can definitely generate some type of laws as it relates to set-net operations.”

Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin said the majority of the bait for the THA-owned Capital of Paradise commercial fishing vessel is received from St Vincent. She said the plan is to enter into the same industry with the expertise that is available in the division, TADCO and also the All Tobago fisherfolk Association (ATFA).

“We welcome all the expertise in rolling out the bait industry.”

Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin speaks to the media at Shaw Park last Thursday. – Photo courtesy THA