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Saturday 20 January 2018

Trawlers destroying North Coast seabeds

THE EDITOR: Open letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries: For decades we the fisherfolk of the North Coast have been damaged by the inefficiencies of the protective services to intercept the recurrent lawlessness of shrimp trawlers.

Their vessels are knowingly poaching illegally year after year.

These regulations state clearly, that after 6 pm under cover of darkness, east of Saut D’Eau Island, outside of the allotted time frame (November 15 to January 15), and inside of two miles west of Saut D’Eau (measured from point to point), it is strictly illegal for the trawlers to drag their chains.

We have been frustrated by the previous governments’ unwillingness to enforce the “one strike out” clause of the Shrimp Trawl Agreement, signed by 22 stakeholders (including the Shrimp Trawler Owners Association) in 1997, and we depend on you to save the North Coast villagers from the vagaries of these vessels.

This clause states clearly that because of the recurring lawlessness of that sector, if a single member is caught once and prosecuted, there would immediately be an automatic, indefinite “one strike out” ban of all trawling on the North Coast.

We are sure every person of integrity would agree that an agreement is an agreement.

The integrity of the Government is being called into question and this should never be. A Government must always have and be seen to have integrity.

Last year three such poacher shrimp trawl vessels were caught after our tireless efforts and almost continuous daily reporting to the Coast Guard. The case was air-tight. All of the evidence was clear that the culprits would be prosecuted and the “one strike out” would be enforced. Today, a year later, not a single vessel has been prosecuted, the “one strike out” was not enforced, and the culprits are back again to destroy our villagers’ resources and economic life with impunity. Who can we turn to? Is it lawful for politicians or the Coast Guard to determine how, when and who should be charged for a crime? Are all laws not our national laws, applicable for all citizens or do different citizens have different laws? Why is this interference in the prosecution of some crimes occurring and what are the implications for justice and respect for justice by all of our citizens? These are serious questions deserving of serious answers? On Monday seven crews of lawless poachers were seen all the way outside Las Cuevas, dragging their destructive chains, scraping the seabeds of all future life. The Coast Guard was repeatedly informed, but did not respond at all.

What is the future of the fisheries of TT with 70 poorly managed fishery professionals having been suddenly sent home last week? These fisheries officers are trained and precepted. Our new Government has abandoned our fishers and our rural communities and we are stunned.

Why was there no consultation on this brave move? How will the sector be regulated if the entire staff has been suddenly terminated? What will we advise our members who are suffering from an already bombed out fishery? Terrence Bed-doe Cecil Mc Lean Gary Aboud Fishermen and Friends of the Sea


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