To our horror and astounding shock, the offending vessels have been released from the Coast Guard. The vessels and owners have been set free to continue with their activities.
Normally charges are laid in the Magistrates Court the day after an arrest but mysteriously no charges have yet been laid in this case. Why? Several days have already passed, and this Government is dragging its feet on enforcement of the law.
Why have the owners not been charged? Why have the offending vessels been released? Where is the illegal catch? Confiscated or released with a friendly smile? How could the Government now claim to have lost the signed stakeholder agreement which states clearly that the “one strike out” clause will be enforced if a single trawler is caught violating the agreement in a single instance on the North Coast? Where is that Director of Fisheries who was responsible and accountable for the document?
The contents are clear and remembered, and if necessary Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) will be dragged into the High Court to ensure that this Government does not cheat the stakeholders of their rights. An agreement is binding.
Why has the clause not already been enforced? Where is the integrity of the UNC-led Government in this matter? Why is the Government playing ministerial hide and seek and musical chairs with the poor artisanal fisher communities who have all held their part of the agreement? Please PM Persad- Bissessar, we voted for integrity, we were promised accountability and transparency, but instead we feel violated.
The conduct of the Government appears to be one in which it is sympathising with lawlessness while lawful and vulnerable coastal communities are made to pay the price of their livelihoods destroyed. FFOS will not fiddle while our communities are ridden over roughshod.
What we ask for is that violators are made accountable to the court and secondly that Government lives up to its signed agreement. Are we asking too much?
Cecil Mc Lean