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International embarrassment for T&T

Gonzalo Morales//

On April 21, 2016, the European Commission in Brussels issued a “yellow card” to T&T, who they have labelled as “uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.”

This international warning is an global embarrassment for our beleaguered nation. 

The European Commission is proposing a “tailor-made action plan that will help put in place robust fisheries management control systems.” Does the plan include a radar system to monitor transshipments of substances (including fish) on the high sea? Has there been any warnings prior, or any consultation with our Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and/or with our local fishery stakeholders in developing this “plan” or is this a typical top down imperial approach?

The offshore fishery is certainly unmonitored and unmanaged. FFOS is aware and have reported international fleets transshipping tuna and shark fins at sea, which are then legitimately landed in Sea Lots thence exported from our airport in full cargo jets. 

Data and access to the National Fisheries (now Taiwanese) Sea Lots compound is unavailable because our members have been debarred. The National Fisheries (now Taiwanese) Sea Lots compound is provided with subsidised fuel, water and facilities. Taiwanese and other unknown fleets of foreign long liners are benefitting from subsidies with no benefit to nationals. 

We know that the inshore fishery is also mismanaged.Gonzalo Morales Locally it is common knowledge that Venezuelan transporters openly sell fish in south Trinidad while the Guardia Nacional continues to arrest local fishermen who drift into their waters. Under the watchful eyes of our Coast Guard, Venezuelan pirates are known to steal vessels and kidnap our fishers in our near-shore waters, who must then pay US dollar ransoms or face death. And local shrimp trawlers have been implicated in diesel scandals and poach regularly in protected North Coast areas in broad daylight, while our Coast Guard remain mysteriously impotent and neutered.

Our grassroots stakeholders must be negatively affected if any “ban” is placed on our country exports. FFOS therefore offers our full support to Minister Clarence Rambharat and the Commission in this battle against renegade vessels using flags of convenience to land illicit catches on our shores. As primary stakeholders and fishery partners, we appeal to our government and the European Commission to consider a more holistic approach and to hold public consultations on several equally important and ongoing threats.

Terrence Beddoe, President,

Gary Aboud, Corporate Secretary,

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS)

REFERENCE:

European Commission press release

“Fighting illegal fishing: Warnings for Kiribati, Sierra Leone and T&T, while Sri Lanka is delisted” Brussels, April 21, 2016. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1457_en.htm

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