The All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) is concerned that the ruptured gas well reported to be spewing a mix of gas and mud into the Gulf of Paria, would have a negative impact on Tobago fishermen.
Curtis Douglas, Vice President of ATFA, told Newsday Tobago on Wednesday, that there was a high possibility that the island’s fishermen would be affected within hours, once the oily substance reaches the Bocas.
Media reports have said that the Ministry of Works and Transport has placed a five-mile mark zone five-nautical-mile exclusion zone around the ruptured Couva Marine 2 well after it became active over a week ago. Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud has raised the possibility of contamination, as the hydrocarbon materials being spewed into the Gulf of Paria would circulate throughout the entire region, given the clockwise movement of water in the gulf.
The Ministry of Energy Ministry has plans were being developed to control the well, and the oily substance is being “retrieved with skimmers.”
Douglas, in an interview on Wednesday, said that with Tobago fishermen experiencing significant decreases in their fish catch, issues that pose a threate to marine life must be taken more seriously.
“With that kind of current from the Oricono waters, within a day any spill…will saturate Tobago’s shoreline. If the Oricono waters from Guyana can reach as far as Tobago, you can imagine the effects of the substance released from a ruptured well. Once it hits the Bocas, it will hit the shores of Tobago.
“When people thinks it’s just there and it’s far away from Tobago, given the pace at which the current comes, it will affect us and our marine life within 24 hours,” he said.
“Special attention needs to be paid to situations like this and the authorities cannot continue to operate recklessly… They must not try to use any pretty words to cover the fallout to and lack of safety for the environment, but at least deal with the fact it will bring hardship for fishermen in Trinidad and Tobago, and the environment,” he added.
Douglas suggested that the price of fish could well increase depending on the damage done to the island’s marine life.
“It will limit their (fishermen) catch and then limit the amount of money they can’t take home to feed and supply to their families in these harsh economic times,” he said.
Douglas claimed Tobago fishermen were already dealing with T$300,000 in losses caused by a seismic survey done by BHP Billiton over four years ago. He claimed the company, after promising compensation, was now becoming hesitant to follow through.
“They are going to do more exploration and have six more wells coming in the next couple of months and fishermen have to stay 500 metres away from them, and they are using lights, with no regards to our livelihood,” he said.
“I know the country relies heavily on natural gas but at the same time we must be able to coexist, but BHP Billiton and their policies are not fishermen friendly. There is no law stating that fishermen should keep away 500 metres from these wells but yet still they are prepared to use force to ensure that is enforced.
“It’s four years now we have been before the court trying to get compensation for the thousands lost, caused by their last exploration. Now they are saying they are not willing to compensate Tobago fishermen and that is disturbing.”
Douglas is calling on the Ministry of Energy and the Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, who is also Secretary for Energy to intervene and ensure fair treatment for Tobago fishermen in these matters.