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Fishermen want the EMA to test the waters

By Richardson Dhalai Saturday, March 29 2014

Two south Trinidad fishing bodies have called on the Environmental Management Association,(EMA), to conduct immediate tests in the Gulf of Paria to determine whether the region’s entire fishing stocks have been contaminated by last December’s oil spill.

In separate telephone interviews yesterday, both men, Kishore Boodram, head of the Claxton Bay Fisherfolk Association, and Salim Gool, president of the San Fernando Fishing Co-operative society, said they were unable to say whether the fish caught by their respective members had been contaminated, as claimed by Environmental activist and Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary, Gary Aboud.

On Thursday, Aboud, accompanied by representatives from a number of Fishing Associations, visited the EMA’s St Clair offices in an attempt to deliver a letter to EMA chairman, Allan Bachan, about their concern. The group also brought along a quantity of dead fish, and a dead pelican, for testing by the EMA. The group was not allowed inside the EMA’s compound.

Commenting on the issue yesterday, Boodram said the population had a right to know the truth about the dead fishes which were washing ashore along the La Brea coastline.

‘Let the EMA do their testing as soon as possible, I would say within 48 hours, and tell the population what is the real situation,’ Boodram said.

Asked whether the fish caught along Claxton Bay was safe to consume, Boodram said, “As far as I know, the fish caught in Claxton Bay area is safe. But to make a prouncement that the fish in the entire Gulf is unsafe, that has implications for the whole country and we have to protect the population, and that is why the relevant Government agencies have to do their work to assure the population.”

Gool was also in full agreement as he said the time has come for tests to be conducted throughout the Gulf of Paria which he believed was affected by effluent from other industries, including the Point Lisas Industrial Estate may have found its way into the waters.

‘I don’t know if the fish is good to eat, because we are not pulling in dead fish,’ he said.

‘The Minister of Agriculture or Food Production have to make a statement on this matter,’ Gool said, ‘they have to re-focus on the fishing industry because it seems as if they are focusing on land fish, such as Tilapia, and neglecting the plight of the fishermen who depend on the sea for a living.

However, both men were in agreement that the fish catch continued to be “small” saying this was”normal” for the Lenten season.

‘Normally at this time, the fish catch is small, but to say it is because of the oil, we cannot say for certain that this is the reason,” Boodram said.

Meanwhile, La Brea fisherman, Gopaul Balkissoon said scores of dead fish such as mullet, moonshine, catfish and salmon were continuing to wash ashore during the night time.

‘We haven’t been able to fish since the oil spill last year, because the EMA hasn’t given us the all clear as yet, so all our boats park up, and now is dead fish washing ashore so we don’t know what is going on,’ he said.

Telephone calls to the EMA’s chairman mobile phone went unanswered.

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