Energy company BHP Trinidad says it does not intend to prevent Tobago fishermen from working while a geotechnical survey is being done in the waters around the island.
The company was responding to claims by members of the All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association who said they feared their livelihoods would be affected. The survey started on July 11.
The association's president Curtis Douglas told reporters at a news conference at Pigeon Point last week the fishermen should be compensated for any loss of revenue arising out of the survey.
He said the fishermen had a meeting with BHP in February, but were not told the company had been granted clearance to begin work this month. He feared the island’s marine resources could also be negatively affected.
Douglas said the survey "starts from 63 miles to the closest point to seven miles inshore in the waters of Tobago. That means they have violated the same lines that they have confined Tobagonians with as our marine and protective zone.
"The protective zone is a zone where our reefs (are) – we have over 22 reefs in Tobago – so when they come, even self they come for one hour, or a day within that zone, they would be doing a lot of damage.” All the fishing villages on the island would be affected, he said.
In an emailed response to Newsday on Monday, principal media relations at BHP Judy Dane said all regulatory protocols in securing environmental clearance were followed, including writing to all relevant organisations.
She said permission was granted by the Environmental Management Agency on March 24 to go ahead with the offshore geophysical and geotechnical survey.
“The survey is currently under way offshore Trinidad and Tobago.
“As a sustainable operator, BHP prioritises working collaboratively with all stakeholders in Trinidad and Tobago, including the All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association, to enable people to express their views and experiences.”
Dane said BHP met the association's members on February 24 to discuss the survey and address their concerns.
“To be clear, BHP has not, and will not, request any of the fishing groups to halt fishing during the survey duration.
“At BHP, we value collaborative community relationships and look forward to the safe completion of the survey.”
THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said he intends to meet with the ATFA later this week to get a better understanding of the issue, after which he would make a statement.