THA distributes 100 oil-spill relief vouchers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Cleanup efforts underway of the oil spill in Tobago – THA

Twenty-three days after the February 7 oil spill, over 100 vouchers have been distributed to the fisherfolk and other stakeholders by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

The exercise took place at the Shaw Park food hub on Friday.

The spill came about as a result of an overturned barge – the Gulfstream – which began leaking an oil-like substance, since identified as bunker fuel, some 200 metres off the coast of the Cove Eco-Industrial Park.

Speaking at a THA briefing, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael said the relief was made possible following a meeting earlier in the week with fisherfolk and other stakeholders.

“We recognise that in that process, because it’s a process that is a dynamic one, there were a few individuals who showed up who were not captured on any of the lists and that is fine. My officers were instructed to collect their information. We will collate that information and will provide that additional support to those individuals, possibly next week.”

Assistant Secretary of Food Production, Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and the Environment, Nigel Taitt, said, “We are giving vouchers to those who suffered from the oil spill. The vouchers are all worth $1,000 and can be used to purchase foodstuff only.”

Director of Fisheries Garth Ottley, who was also at the distribution, said, “I am happy to see that the THA is relieving the fisherfolk from the stress that they were going through. Some of them continue to be impacted, but we would have continued conversations with them in an attempt to relieve those stresses that they have been receiving.”

Ottley said as director, he has been receiving several complaints.

“They expressed their concerns. As a department, we had the opportunity and the responsibility to liaise and try to find measures, and that is what we did.

“Some of the vendors were relocated to the food hub. We also relocated some of the vessels to different areas so that they can continue to ply their trade and we continue to maintain that relationship with the fisherfolk so we will continue to work with them.”

Fisherman Ainsworth Daniel commended the assembly on the initiative.

“It’s alright, it’s a start. We welcome it, we will look at it and take it.

“Going back to Lambeau will take some time because I work on the ground also, I am one of the volunteers, so I have seen this first-hand and we have a while again to go, so we the fishermen, really need to adapt to where we are now and try to make it our home.

“Everybody in Lambeau who wants to be relocated was relocated. If they haven’t done so as yet and they want to come and get a spot, this is where dialogue will come into place,” he said.

Another fisherman, Kerry Makoul, shared similar sentiments.

“I must say I am grateful to be part and parcel of the relief that the THA provided. I am hoping that it continues, because we are really in a serious state and, most times, the fishermen feel left out. So we really appreciate this.”

While fisherwoman Sumattee Ramkisson said, “I feel very proud, at least we get something. At the end of the day, we all are suffering by this oil spill. I thank God and I am very grateful for that.”