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Challenges of the Fishery
Another Avoidable Death

Another Avoidable Death

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) issue condolences to the family of Neil Ramkhelawansingh, our deceased fisher who fell off a fishing boat close to the Godineau Bridge. Another fisherman is dead by drowning. He could have been alive today with his family if our Government had acted responsibly and updated fisheries legislation. Shouldn’t there be a law to guide conduct or to establish minimum standards for seamen?

Since 1916, the Fisheries Act has not been updated to adequately address the modern problems and issues fishermen face today.

The maladministration of week legislative agendas continues to cause loss of life. Both past and present Governments have neglected the needs of our fisherfolk and our fishing communities. We are in a sea of despair. As it stands any person of any age, whether 3 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.

The new Draft Fisheries Management Bill has been brought to Parliament three (3) times for the past eight (8) years without any consultation with our primary stakeholders. In 2018 we face the same high handedness again.

On 12th June 2018, the Government held an invitation-only public meeting to discuss the Draft Fisheries Management Bill. Primary fisheries stakeholders were not even invited. How can there be wide and meaningful public consultation if the Government deliberately excludes the most affected and vulnerable stakeholders? The major changes in the Bill are the draconian measures which such as 102 penalties which have increased by 70,000% (from 1000 TTD to 100,000 USD), and include up to 5 years imprisonment, loss of vessel, gear, license and/or vehicle for a simple violation such as not having your license in your pocket while out at sea, or having your 16 year old at sea.

On 27th June, FFOS as well as several other fishing associations wrote the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, expressing strong concerns and were not in agreement with the draconian, unreasonable sections which carry outrageous fines and even imprisonment and requested further consultation on this Bill before it is laid in Parliament. However, FFOS and the co-signed fishing associations recognise the necessity of updating the 102year-old Fisheries Act (1916) and are in agreement with the intention of this Proposed Bill. ( Please see attached).

FFOS have appealed for this legislation for its full 20 years and …… the silence is deafening. Our sons, all brothers, fathers and husbands are being killed. While boastfully opening inappropriate, wasteful and useless fishing buildings built at public expense is our Prime Minister concerned with our voiceless and suffering? How many more must die before a Government comes to our rescue??

Sincerely,

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

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