Tobago fishermen: Energy company must replace ‘destroyed traps’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

All Tobago Fisherfolk Association president Curtis Douglas –

THE All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) is alleging that an energy company has affected the livelihoods of fishermen at the eastern end of Tobago by doing a geotechnical survey on May 12.

Speaking with the media in Speyside on Friday, ATFA’s president Curtis Douglas called for adequate compensation for loss of equipment.

“We ent come out to play. Enough is enough, we need to be fair and equal,” Douglas said. “Me ent come here to play hopscotch and moral. When the fisherman is in pain, I am in pain, and that means I can’t sleep properly, and that means they can’t feed their families.”

Douglas said he has received complaints from fishermen in Parlatuvier, Castara, Speyside, Belle Garden, Delaford and Roxborough that their traps were destroyed.

“One man lost 22 traps, at $6,000 for one,” he said.

ATFA trustee Sheldon Cooper claimed the energy company sent notices to the fishermen very late.

“These people don’t respect fishermen,” Cooper said. “They would come around and say that they dropped notices to the different landing sites, but they dropped the notices when the ship had already passed. Most of the documents that they had sent out, the date had already passed.”

Douglas added,”To me, is like it’s a plot to destroy the fishing industry in Tobago.”

He said the fishing community is trying to keep the peace on the issue.

“We don’t believe in violence and burning tyres and carrying on. They want us to be violent and disruptive. We are not going to do that. We are very conventional.

“We are going to express ourselves and we are going to write letters and we are going to take them to court if we have to, to ensure that fishermen are equally and rightfully compensated.”

Douglas said Chief Secretary Farley Augustine promised to meet with the fisherfolk on the issue, but this did not happen.

“More than 48 hours have gone. More than 48 hours now these people can’t feed their kids.

“Mr Chavez (Chavez is Augustine’s middle name) said that he would have represented the people, he even said it on his campaign speech that he would help the fisherfolk and he would represent the fisherfolk, and we are calling on him and (Deputy Chief Secretary) Mr (Watson) Duke in support of Tobago and the Tobago fishing industry and the Tobago families that we have here right now that can’t feed their families. We want to know what are their intentions and how are going to treat with this?”

He said he has sent a list of the affected fishermen to the THA Department of Fisheries and Augustine, and also intends to submit one to Duke.

Cooper said one fisherman had set 30-40 traps.

“After he would have set those traps, you come and give me about two days’ or three days’ notice, telling me that you’re passing. How could I have moved that?”

He said no consultations were held with the fishermen nor ATFA.

“This is the home of the Chief Secretary (area representative). We don’t know if he would take on this fight with us in protesting against these oil giants. We are calling on him and Mr Duke in support of Tobago and the Tobago fishing industry and the Tobago families.”

Tyson Kent, an affected fisherman, said he has lost a lot of money.

“To put down a FAD (fish aggregating device) is roughly $6,000, but again, that is not all – what about loss of earnings and the days when we don’t catch any fish? It have guys who setting fish pods. They lost their fish pods.”

Augustine could not be reached for comment, as calls and messages to his cellphone went unanswered.