The protected zone is reserved for artisanal fishing.
According to reports from Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, the occupants of the three vessels were detained yesterday morning by officers of the Coast Guard who were accompanied by fisheries officers.
Asked about the impounding of the trawling vessels yesterday, Minister of Lands and Marine Resources Jairam Seemungal told Newsday he was awaiting a report from the Director of Fisheries.
When he spoke with Newsday, Seemungal could not say whether the men were charged or how they would be dealt with. The current fisheries’ laws, he said, are over 100 years and were not punitive in the current circumstances. The current draft fisheries regulations, he said, was with the Legislative Review Committee and are far advanced.
On the other hand, FFOS Secretary Gary Aboud told Newsday yesterday there were regulations which had been agreed on and could be instituted. If the owners are convicted, Aboud said, Government must honour the Shrimp Trawl Agreement with its ‘one strike out’ provision.
The one strike-out provision contained in the Shrimp Trawlers Regulations, Aboud explained, was agreed to in 1997 with primary stakeholders, Shrimp Trawlers’ Association and 14 government agencies including the Director of Fisheries.
The “one strike out” provision, Aboud said, means that if a single trawler contravenes the regulation then all trawling will be banned indefinitely.
This year, he said that trawling had been going on non-stop even though the legal trawling season opens yearly on November 15 and ends on January 15. The FFOS, he said, made a report since October 15 about the illegal trawling of some 14 to 16 industrial trawling vessels, but nothing was done.
“These industrial fleets have been turning the ocean beds into a wasteland. For years, trawlers have been playing cat and mouse with the coast guard and the fisher communities,” Aboud said.
To date, Aboud added, there have been several successful judicial prosecutions yet Government has not yet enforced the “one strike out” provision.