Fisherfolk support trawling ban
By JANELLE DESOUZA Thursday, September 19 2013
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), Trinidad and Tobago FisherFolk (TTFF) and numerous other fishing organisations yesterday gathered and marched to express the organisations’ support for the Government’s decision to ban trawling, as well as, to ask that best practices be applied in the use of marine seismic surveys.
Hundreds of members of various organisations such as the South West Tobago Fishing Association, Blanchisseuse Fisherfolk Association, Chaguaramas Fishing Association, and the San Fernando Fishing Co-operation, gathered at Woodford square yesterday and later marched to Parliament at the International Waterfront Complex on Wrightson Road.
They hoped to deliver a letter to either Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, or Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj, congratulating the Government on the recently announced ban on industrial shrimp trawlers, as well as to make suggestions on the regulation of seismic surveys.
Gary Aboud, president of FFOS said he hoped to sensitise and encourage the Government to adopt the same safeguards the government of Canada has put in place to control the impact of seismic surveys.
Aboud noted that, for over 19 years in Canada, seismic surveys could not be carried out in spawning areas, during the breeding time of any fish, or near to a migratory path. “We are not asking for anything more than the Canadians,” he said. “Why should a Canadian seismic survey company be permitted by our government and our people to come here and do in Trinidad, what they are forbidden to do in Canada?”
He said he realised Government had to strike a balance between the energy companies and the fisherfolk, but was confident that Persad-Bissessar and Maharaj would “be fair” and help the organisations on this count if the members were “respectful and dutiful.”
Cathal Healy-Singh, an Environmental Engineer explained that seismic surveys by oil and gas companies utilised sonar or sound waves when exploring. If there are oil and gas deposits, the waves that bounce back indicate such.
“The problem is fish are acoustic animals and these seismic surveys have been shown to disrupt and scatter fish, as well as to damage spawning fish. Fish normally swim in schools, but when they are scattered like that, they don’t reform and get lost,” said Healy-Singh.
He noted that regulation of seismic surveys were standard practices in other countries, relative to the fish seasons as well as their breeding grounds. “There is also how they do the surveys - the duration, intensity of the sound being used, etc and things like that are very important on how to mitigate the damage and impact on the fish,” he said.
Healy-Singh also believed the surveys could be regulated by bringing them under the Environmental Management Authority’s (EMA) purview, which would require an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before the surveys. “If that were the case, then when the next series of seismic surveys are going to happen, they would be subject to public scrutiny and an assessment of what the implications they would have on the fishery,” he said.
Assistant President of the TTFF, Kishore Boodram added that the seismic surveys also impact the downstream sector such as persons trading ice, engines, and exporting fish. He said over the past two years, there has been a big decline in the fishing industry, which has resulted in increased fish prices.