Environmental group Fisherman and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is reporting illegal shrimp trawling on the north coast of Trinidad. In a release yesterday, FFOS provided taken Saturday morning and reportedly showing five shrimp trawlers approximately a half mile off Saut d’Eau Island.
FFOS pointed out that shrimp trawling is illegal and said the photos show all of the five trawlers are inside of the two mile protected area, and one is definitely east of Saut D’eau Island and outside the shrimp trawling regulation for the North Coast.
FFOS said the shrimp trawl regulations were signed by all relevant government agencies (including Fisheries Division and the Coast Guard) as well as all fishery stakeholders including the Shrimp Trawler Owners Association.
“These five shrimp trawlers are openly violating the shrimp trawl regulations under the watchful eyes of government.”
FFOS said it has made public and have reported alleged conflicts of interest within the Coast Guard itself with officers allegedly owning trawlers while preventing the enforcement of the shrimp trawl regulations.
FFOS pointed out the shrimp trawl regulations stated clearly that there would be a “one strike out” banning all shrimp trawling on the north coast indefinitely if a simple trawler was successfully prosecuted for the violation. FFOS said to prosecute illegal trawlers who are poaching in protected areas required a fisheries officer to be on board the Coast Guard vessel, and that the trawler is boarded while actually engaged in the illegal act (with its nets dragging/scraping the seabed).
“However when the Coast Guard receives our report they often times send an aircraft to verify, and then on confirmation of the illegal act they would dispatch a marine vessel.
However, the vessel leaves the Gulf of Paria and bends the corner of the First Bocas onto the North Coast, the shrimp trawlers have sight of the approaching Coast Guard and it takes a considerable time for the Coast Guard to reach the shrimp trawlers because they are navigating against the strong east west tidal movement, giving the shrimp trawlers more than ample time to pull their nets up.
FFOS called on Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharath to take action.
“Government must recognise that failing to enforce any law weakens all laws in every corner of our nation.
Soon the elections will come and the legacy of abandonment will continue to deprive those who are voiceless.”
Three calls to Rambharath’s cellphone went unanswered and no response was received to a text enquiry up to press time.