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Fishermen sinking in debt

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The trinidad Guardian / Valdeen Shears-Neptune

Sinking under the weight of mounting bills as their means of livelihood slip slowly away, fisherfolks operating along the Gulf of Paria are calling for a common sense but scientific approach to determine the real cause for the recent fish kill.

Fish vendor Dale Ball who carries out his trade at the Otaheite Fish Market said while the Environmental Management Authority’s (EMA) and Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) are of the opinion that the dead fish may have been dumped, he is of the view that if nothing was wrong then sea ducks and birds which are feeding on the carcasses would not have died.

“While we are aware there is the issue of dumping, there is something more than that at work here. The authorities need to do their investigations and do it quickly, because it is crippling our lives and our livelihoods,” Ball said.

He pointed out that while the dead mullet and herrings feed on the surface and may have been affected by whatever pollutants were in the water, he said the corbeaux were not eating it.

“Do you know that corbeaux don’t eat anything that is poisoned or polluted?” he asked at a joint news conference hosted by the Dow Village and South Oropouche Fishing Association and the Otaheite Vendors Association yesterday morning.

During the 90 minutes members of the media remained at the fishing depot yesterday, they were able to see just about three people make purchases, a day fishermen said was normally their best morning for sales.

Vice-president of the Otaheite Vendors Association, Clement Charles, said the situation has negatively affected over 300 families.

Ball said the majority of fish sold at the south market is not from the Gulf and that he has over $20,000 in fish on consignment from places like Cedros and Icacos that will now go to waste because his regular customers think it was fish from the affected waters. Several other vendors shared the same sentiments.

Ball said he now has to sell his truck in order to pay mounting bills.

“I am down now, but I will come back up…it will all depend on how fast the authorities do their investigation, and let the public know what is the real reason behind the dead fish. 

The public confidence in our goods has to be restored and the only people to do that is Government and the relevant agencies.”

Dow Village Association President, Suresh Seepersad, said they could only speculate as to the cause of the fish kill as they were not marine biologists neither did they have the knowledge or resources to get to the root cause.

He called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to provide avenues for by-products for excessive fish, even as pet food, to assist in eliminating the issue of dumping.

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