Fishermen who export of fish and fish products to Trinidad have being suffering significant loss of income because of problems on the sea bridge.
So said Curtis Douglas, vice president of the All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (AFTA), speaking at the Joint
Select Committee Land and Physical Infrastructure to enquire into agriculture and fisheries in Tobago, at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough last Wednesday.
“The sea bridge (problems) has been hurting us, our pockets and our homes, immensely. We have lost money, we can’t put a figure to it but we have lost a great deal,” Douglas said, adding that dried fish, vacuum packed and flying fish were exported to Trinidad.
“The fishing industry is suffering from this (lack of a reliable ferry service) because… the challenge is to get it (the prepared fish) on the boat and we can’t get it there (Trinidad), this hurts our pockets.
“There is no support from the (Tobago House of Assembly) Fisheries Department, there’s no proper structure and when we sit together to have conversations to advance the fishing industry in Tobago … it always
breaks down. They (Fisheries Department) are not willing to work with the fishing community,” he added.
Douglas also complained that officials in the Division of Food Production and Fisheries have refused to listen to the issues plaguing Tobago fishermen and to their recommendations for solutions.
“Instead of they listen to what some of the plights of the fishermen are, they instruct or demand what fishermen should have and shouldn’t have… they decide that this is what’s going to happen, take it or leave it. This is why we before the Joint Select Committee sitting here, is because we left it,” he said.
“The Fisheries Department has been failing us miserably for years,” he said, telling the JSC members that fishermen were once forced to take oil companies who were conducting seismic surveys around Tobago and
driving the fish away, to court, because of lack of representation by the Fisheries Department.
“It is a sad day when the Fisheries Department, who are there to represent the fishermen, we now also had to take them to court for proper representation. When these oil companies, they sit with them (officials from Fisheries Department) and they do their collective bargains and we are not a part of it, they make the decision for us,” he complained.