THE All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) is calling on the Prime Minister to say whether any progress has been made in the ongoing dispute between Barbados and TT fisherfolk over flying-fish stock.
At a news conference on Thursday on the Scarborough Esplanade, ATFA president Curtis Douglas noted that the flying fish season kicks off in October.
But he said the association has not received any word from Dr Rowley on to settling the fishing feud between the two islands.
Douglas said he hopes Finance Minister Colm Imbert will address the issue in Monday’s national budget.
Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have been at loggerheads for years over flying fish stock. Within the past few decades, most of the fish have been migrating from Barbados – which has claimed the species as its own – to TT.
As a result, Barbadian fisherfolk have been venturing into TT waters to claim what they believe to be their stock.
Rowley and his Barbadian counterpart Mia Mottley have discussed the issue several times and have reportedly left it up to the technical experts to advise them on the way forward.
In the meantime, Douglas said the issue remains on the front burner and has implications for the sustainability of the industry.
He added the problem is compounded by the hot weather, which has the potential to deplete the fish stock.
“The water is the hottest in my existence over the last 20 years, which means that the spawning of fish, the level of fish stock that we would have, are depleting.
"But we must do something immediately.”Saying ATFA has a plan to preserve stock, Douglas said the government must be willing to come on board.
“It will also need an effort from the government of TT to ensure that they have sustainable fish for our future.”
Douglas said ATFA wrote to the Prime Minister on April 12 and got an acknowledgement on July 2.
“In terms of navigating forward to protect our food security not only through Tobago and Trinidad but throughout the Caribbean, we cannot be using the same old, same old, trying to full water in a basket and don’t expect it to leak. Our approach must be different, and it all starts with a conversation.”
Douglas also responded to the European Union’s (EU’s) ban on TT fish exports.
The European Commission, in a release on Tuesday, labelled TT “a non-co-operating country” in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The commission said the ban was based on the country's failure to address “serious shortcomings” after being issued a yellow-card warning since April 2016.
Douglas said the issue boiled down to non-compliance.
“We expect that the Finance Minister will put something in place for the processors and the red flag comes about because we have not been following the right practices. That means that the processors in Tobago will not be able to export fish to Europe.”
He believes the ban will further cripple the economy, especially in the area of foreign exchange.
“That needs to be reviewed. So we are calling upon the Prime Minister to have a cordial meeting with the association and the fisheries department. We need a collaborative effort to solve that problem.
“It must be a collaborative effort not only with suits and lawyers, but with the ground people, the fisherfolk that goes out in the sea every day, see the difficulties, the processors that go through the struggle in getting their place to a certain standard so that their fish can be consumed, not only local(ly) but also abroad.”