THE All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) is calling on Energy Minister Stuart Young to say why the organisation was not included on any panel at the recently concluded energy conference in Trinidad.
The conference was held from January 23-25 at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. It featured contributions by Juan Vasquez, country manager, Woodside Energy; David Campbell, regional president, bpTT; Mark Loquan, president of the National Gas Company of TT Ltd; Aleeya Ali, Proman’s managing director of operations, and others. Dr Thackwray Driver, president and CEO, of the Energy Chamber, was the facilitator.
During a news conference on Tuesday in Scarborough, ATFA president Curtis Douglas said the association should have been invited to participate.
“When they had that energy conference, not even a member of the All Tobago Fisherfolk or the Chief Secretary (Farley Augustine did attend the energy conference) was on a panel to discuss the way forward in the energy sector. Is about high time these kinds of dictatorship and...colonial behaviour stop,” a visibly upset Douglas told reporters.
“This is a twin island republic – Trinidad and Tobago. If they are not organising Trinidad, that is no fault of ours. But when it comes to the waters of Tobago, make it clear, All Tobago fisherfolk are structured and well prepared for anything that you could dish out to us.
“You supposed to represent the people of Trinidad and Tobago. You are having this big energy conference and where are the Tobago fisherfolk?
In response, CEO of the Energy Chamber Thackwray Driver told Newsday the chamber did not specially invite non-governmental organisations (NGOs), with the exception of the Heroes Foundation that helped bring students from high schools throughout Trinidad to this year's conference.
All other attendees and companies that had booths at the event, had to register and pay to be there.
Douglas also claimed that a rig had recently destroyed the fish-aggregating devices (FADs) of fishermen in Charlotteville, Parlatuvier, Castara, Culloden and Plymouth.
He said, “Everybody know now is dolphin season, now is tuna season. They mash up – even on the rig.
"I personally went out and saw FADs stick up on the rig itself.”
Douglas claimed three energy companies denied culpability.
“So if is not them – is the devil. If is not one of them that doing exploration and cutting away all our livelihood, who it is?”
He urged Young to provide answers.
“You cannot say these things coming and destroying our products and nobody knows. When they (energy companies) cutting away (fish pots and FADs) and making hardship upon the fisherfolk in Tobago, who should be angry – not us?
“So Tobago is a free-for-all, anybody could come in with a rig and cut away we thing. The normal practice in moving forward is we will have a phone call, a conversation of what time the rig is traversing to and from. So if we have anything in the way, they could re-route that route so fisherfolk will not be able to get damaged. When you cut away our fish pots and our FADs, when you go out there you cannot guarantee a catch.”
Douglas said fishermen have continued to experience losses while trying to earn a livelihood.
He recalled that in June 2022, a US naval ship had damaged fishermen’s FADs while sailing in Tobago waters.
Douglas said Augustine had met with fisherfolk.
“He told us he would have met with ambassadors from America to discuss our damages and how we will be compensated.”
He assured fishermen in Speyside and Charlotteville who were affected by the incident, that ATFA was not at fault. Douglas claimed roughly 227 FADs were destroyed.
“But I must blame ATFA for not coming out and letting you all know publicly in an early enough time what was taking place.
“We were giving the chief secretary enough time to make the arrangements in order for us to meet with the people and negotiate some way forward. That was not done.”
Douglas said the affected fishermen are still awaiting compensation. (with reporting by Vishanna Phagoo)