FISHERMEN and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) secretary Gary Aboud continues to call for an update to the Fisheries Act, saying this continues to be a hindrance to the industry’s development.
In a media release he said the Fisheries Act was 102 years old, having been passed in 1916, and did not “adequately address the modern problems and issues fishermen face today.” As it stands, he said, “Any person of any age, whether three or 93, can captain any vessel, at any speed, anytime, anywhere, anyhow, whether blind, drunk, sober or in between.
“ Our administrators have not facilitated workshops to educate the fisherfolk on sustainable fishing practices, health and safety at sea, navigational techniques, basic first aid, or survival techniques…nothing! Not even swimming classes.
“On land, you are subjected to regulation and driving tests if you want drive, but out at sea anything goes and lawlessness has blossomed.”
Aboud said the draft Fisheries Management Bill has been brought to Parliament three times for the past eight years without any consultation with the primary stakeholders.
“In 2018 we face the same high-handedness again.” He said the Government held an “invitation-only public meeting” on June 12 to discuss the bill, which contained “draconian measures,” with penalties increased by over 70,000 per cent.
He said fines had been increased from $1,000 to a proposed US$100,000 and penalties included up to five years’ imprisonment, loss of vessel, gear, licence and/or vehicle “for a simple violation such as not having your licence in your pocket while out at sea, or having your 16-year-old at sea.”
The FFOS as well as several other fishing associations, he said, had written to Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat on June 27 expressing “strong concerns” over the “unreasonable” sections which carried the “outrageous” fines and imprisonment, and requested further consultation before the bill is laid in Parliament.