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Fishermen: Don’t blame us

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Saturday, April 16 2011

EVERY year, customers complain about the price of fish during the Easter Season as devout Catholics abstain from meat for Lent. However, demand is not the only factor determining the prices this year.

Fishmongers are selling King Fish at a whopping $30 to $32 per pound; shark at $16, up from $14; Cro Cro at $12, up from $10; Carite at $20 per pound and Red Fish at $20 but fishermen say they are not to blame.

Balandra fisherman John Mahadeo said that globally fish stocks are becoming scarce, especially migrators such as Carite. He also noted that every year between March and August, net fishing is banned from Manzanilla to Toco to protect the leatherback turtles who migrate to these beaches to lay their eggs.

“For nine months now, oil companies have been doing surveying. The boats pull cables behind them up to three miles long and you can’t be in a five mile radius of the boat so we can’t fish,” said Mahadeo.

“Also these boats have a transducer which send electronic signals going miles into the bottom of the ocean which run the fish from the sea bed so that, even after they leave, the area is without fish.”

In addition to expenses such as gas, nets, engines and bait, there are no freezing facilities nor gas stations near to the Balandra fishing areas so fishermen have to beg or pay the vendors to bring them gas and ice.

Maracas Fisherman Patrick Bharath also noted that, for the last two years, the volume of fish in the ocean has been reduced due to the drilling and rigging on the north coast. He also said one gas company is assessing the number of fishing boats in the area with the intention to provide fishermen with a small stipend because of the fishing restrictions soon to be implemented. He is therefore expecting fish prices to remain high even after the Easter Season.

Cocorite fisherman Sherwin Beggs also noted that the fish tend to move closer to Venezuelan waters during Easter and the farther the fish moves, the more gas the fishermen have to use to follow them. He noted however, that King Fish are “coming out” and many fishermen sometimes catch 150 to 200 pounds per trip. Fishermen have therefore dropped the wholesale price from $22 to $20 per pound.

While fish maybe dear, ground provisions have taken a drastic price dive over the last few weeks because of a glut on the market.

According to Dhano Sookoo, President of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, farmers have been producing large amounts of sweet potato and casava and are in fact hoping to get a bigger market share to dispose of theses items. “Some farmers are complaining that they can’t get a dollar per pound for cassava because there is so much on the market,” said Sookoo.

However, she noted farmers have competition from imported sweet potato and dasheen from the islands and therefore believes the Government needs to establish the right trade policies if there is to be any growth in the Agriculture sector.

President of the Brasso/Caparo Valley Food Crop Association, Terry Bahal confirmed prices of cassava and sweet potato have been drastically reduced because of the excess on the market. “With the election of the new Government, farmers saw there was a future for the industry and we expected to see agriculture boosted. Therefore, last year, farmers invested more money in their crops and planted extra. Also, because of the good weather at the moment, things are going well for us,” he explained. “Customers will definitely benefit from the low prices of provision this Easter. They will be able to put more food on the table for less.”

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