On Tuesday January 17, 2023, the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) hosted a public stakeholder consultation at the Orange Valley Wholesale Fish Market (OVWFM). At that meeting, staff from the Office of the MP for Couva North were present and took note of the many issues affecting the fishing community.
The notably poor turnout – the first issue that was raised by those present; mainly vendors at the facility and fishing vessel owners, was a possible indication of the poor state of communication between NAMDEVCO and its stakeholders. Attendees informed the NAMDEVCO Officials present which included Deputy Chairman, Mr. Liaquat Ali and CEO, Nirmalla Debysingh that because of their current economic hardships, fishermen were out at sea most days and that greater advance notice was required for better participation.
The CEO began by noting that although the locker rooms at the OVWFM were recently refurbished, it was not being used. Those present responded that before, there was no fee attached for the use of the lockers but the newly imposed $100/mth rental fee discouraged most from using it.
While the CEO, Ms. Debysingh spoke to the several plans that the State Company had for refurbishing and upgrading the facility, the stakeholders expressed serious concern with many basic aspects regarding the operations of the market. Ms. Debysingh’s remarks, often interrupted by the stakeholders, resulted in the CEO quickly moving to the open forum part of the Agenda where those in attendance were invited to share suggestions.
From the conversations that followed, it became clear that the various stakeholder groups who occupy and utilize the facility were disenchanted with several matters. Some of these matters included the poor state of the road leading from the facility to the area where they launch and land their vessels, the dilapidated slipway, that is cracked and mossy rendering it unsafe for fisherfolk. The absence of much needed flood lighting at the slipway area and lack of security patrols are a danger to fisherfolk during the early (dark) hours of morning when they usually go out. Those present repeated their plea for CCTV cameras, security and lighting where they embark/disembark their vessels.
President of the Carli Bay Fishing Association, Mr. Imtiaz Khan noted that many of the issues identified were similar to what they at the Carli Bay Fishing Facility were experiencing. He also noted that while the Government has piloted two Bills before Parliament dealing with Shipping and Fisheries Management, the legislation did not address the fundamental issues affecting the industry such as fuel prices and the security and safety of fisherfolk.
Some of the fisherfolk present also made mention of their seven (7) friends who were murdered at sea in August 2019, speaking to the lack of presence of the T&T Coast Guard (TTCG), especially at times of greatest need.
Notwithstanding the absence of any senior official from the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, stakeholders also vehemently stated their dissatisfaction with the Government’s increase in fuel prices and the promise of a fuel rebate that has not yet materialized. One audience member exclaimed, “the Government like they just evil”, stating that everything they (fisherfolk) use, the Government sends up the price.
Since assuming the portfolio of Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram has been lobbying for the protection and well being of our fishermen, both inside the Parliament and outside, holding meetings with the respective Ministers of National Security and Officials of the TTPS and TTCG.
MP Ravi Ratiram expresses his serious concern with these prolonged issues facing our hard-working fisherfolk who put their lives at risk to provide for the food security of our country. MP Ratiram renews his call to the Ministers of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries and National Security to stop playing with the lives and livelihood of our fishing community and attend to their needs with urgent and immediate action.