FISHERMEN and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) and all fishery stakeholders are celebrating and dancing in joy this week.
Minister Devant Maharaj must be applauded for his courage and vision in banning the powerful and well-connected lobby of the industrial shrimp trawlers (Types III and IV), and introducing a closed season during breeding times for artisanal trawlers (Type I and II), as reported in the media.
This move is long overdue and has brought tears of relief to many of us who have witnessed the devastation to our livelihoods and our biodiversity over the past 30 years caused by misguided directors of fisheries.
Mr Maharaj must be mindful of the many challenges ahead, including the widespread discontent endorsed by scientific papers on seismic surveys which show that they result in displacement of fishermen and fish populations and negatively impact spawning species during the survey, which will ultimately result in reduced catch for the fisherfolk for an unknown period of time. Physical damage is also reported for smaller fish and fish with swimming bladders. Impacts were also seen on the egg and larvae stages of fishes. The long-term effect is destroying our members’ livelihood.
Disturbance and displacement of spawning fish from their spawning areas will have an effect on the future fish population.
In the past, recommendations were made (Dalen, et al, 1996) which include seismic shooting being at a minimum of 50 kilometres from spawning grounds or migratory paths. What are we waiting for? There is therefore no need to duplicate prohibitively expensive studies done elsewhere.
Trinidad and Tobago requires the same best practice which Canada and the US have adopted. Anything short of that will be discriminating.
Please, Minister Maharaj, please do not let us fight for 20 more years before seismic surveys are properly regulated. We cannot fiddle while our fishery is vandalised.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea