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Fish safe, or not safe to eat

By Marlene Augustine Thursday, April 3 2014

Fish, crabs, oysters and shrimp caught off the North and East coasts of Trinidad are safe to eat, fishermen declared yesterday.

However, concern remains about fish in the Gulf of Paria, from Otahetie to La Brea, as reports of dead fish and birds washing ashore continue to raise questions whether the waters there are contaminated from man-made pollutants.

Debate on whether all fish are safe to eat intensified yesterday when environmentalist Gary Aboud faced strong criticism from fishermen in Port-of-Spain over his recent caution against eating fish in light of recent fish kills in the south -western waters of the island.

Fishermen at Cocorite Fishing Facility said Aboud’s comment was affecting their sales.

President of the Cocorite Fishing Facility Diane Christian-Simmons yesterday said Aboud may have said some things out of context but wants to reassure the public, the fish on the North and East Coasts were safe to eat.

“I will not encourage the public to purchase fish from Gulf of Paria because it is not safe to consume, however I can vouch for the persons fishing in Port-of-Spain to Alcan Bay which includes Carenage, the fishermen are fishing in the North Coast, and I know personally those fish are safe to eat,” Simmons said during a press conference at the Foreshore, Invaders Bay, Aurdrey Jeffers Highway, Port-of-Spain.

Aboud, secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), who was present, clarified his position, somewhat, saying none of the surface fish such as carite, king fish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo and bonito have washed up dead on beaches.

He said in the Gulf of Paria it was the bottom feeders which were dying, including waliac, salmon, mullet, lippy, catfish, blinch, crapo, pompano, bouchet and taraut.

Aboud maintained such fish were most likely contaminated by last December’s Petrotrin oil spill and were not suitable for the public’s consumption.

He said it was time Government issued a statement explaining why dead fish, pelicans and corbeaux in La Brea continue to wash ashore.

He said based on their analysis the FFOS is of the view the fish kills were the result of Petrotrin’s use of the dispersant Corexit 9500 which when mixed with oil becomes toxic.

Aboud said it is imperative Government declare how much Corexit was used, where and how it was applied.

“It is only with this information can a scientific analysis be done on the extent of residual toxicity in the Gulf of Paria and its implications for the livelihood of fishers and the health of the public,” he said.

Aboud poured a container of dead fish on the ground and demonstrated the large amount he had removed from the shore line in La Brea on Tuesday. However, he was told by Larry Khan a member of TT Industrial Fishing Association that it was a fisherman who caught too much fish and threw them on the beach.

Khan suggested the relevant authority should create zones where it is safe or not safe to fish. “I have the majority of my boats in the Gulf of Paria and no one is buying the fish. This is very risky by bringing the dead fish and putting it on display,” he said.

Khan said Aboud needs to prove the dead birds which are eating the fish are dying because of toxic contamination.

A heated argument escalated between Khan and Aboud, as Khan complained about the lack of sales for the fish he supplies to the Orange Valley and Central Markets, stemming from Aboud’s display of dead fish and his call to the public not to eat the fish.

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