Minister F Khan is Wrong
Date: January 19th 2018
Fishing is the only source of income for our fishers who have invested in their vessels, engines and nets and are now faced, without any forewarning or viable alternatives, with a fuel crisis. There is no more regular gas and we are forced to use super gas which costs us double. The consumer cannot pay more in today’s economic crisis. The fisherfolk have come to the table with bona fide. We have taken aboard the Government’s call for food sustainability. The Government owes us a duty of care to protect our vulnerable communities.
There is a reasonable expectation that the Government would continue to provide this basic necessity in considering our plight, but it appears otherwise. Making matters worse, Minister F. Khan is now making erroneous public statements.
Minister F. Khan has stated that the ‘usage of regular gas is very small… not economically viable… small volume of regular gas was extremely difficult to source on the international market… is no longer used anywhere in the world”. Is Minister F Khan aware that numerous small Caribbean nations still provide regular fuel for its fishers. St. Kitts and Nevis which has a population of just 55,000 and less than 100 commercial fishing vessels yet regular fuel is available.
Has Minister F. Khan ever questioned why our consumption is “low”? The Manning administration limited the availability of regular fuel to 4 Gas Stations (Carenage, San Fernando, Orange Valley and Chaguanas). Our fishers from the deep south, far east and high north must travel all the way to the west to get fuel. Restricted supply equals restricted consumption. Secondly, due to the recently increased competition with taxi drivers, our fishers now have to spend long hours in lines at the gas stations from 4am, making it increasingly strenuous to access regular gas. This limited access decreases consumption.
Minister F Khan has also stated that “there has been no complaints by the fishing community of Tobago”. Minister F Khan should know that Tobago does not suffer the extent of environmental degradation, hydrocarbon spills, seismic bombings, chemical industry pollution, restricted viable fishing grounds (due to the imposed 500m restriction around each oil rig/platform) that we in Trinidad suffer. Our near-shore fishery is on the brink of overexploitation unlike Tobago. Tobagonians don’t have to travel as far. The price of fish in Tobago is more buoyant as there is a ready (hotel) market that is able to pay the international price for fish. The burden on Tobago fisher folk is far less than us.
The Minister states that “No vehicle should be using regular”. But our vessels are not automobile engines but rather two stroke. What has Minister F Khan done to prevent taxi’s purchasing our already limited supply of regular gas? The sale of regular gasoline has been increasing since Government raised the price of super from $3.97 per litre to $4.97 in the 2018/9 Budget. We are now being forced to use super which is doubling the cost of fishing expeditions and may deter 3040% of our fishers from going out. Limited expeditions mean limited income. This will lead to hardship, scarcity and subsequent price increases of local fresh fish. Governments of the world have invested significantly in food security. Why would Minister F Khan jeopardise our local fishing industry? Artificial fish farms and a high food import bill are not the solution.
Would Minister F Khan force Plipdeco to use a more expensive fuel or tell them one day that the natural gas that they utilise would no longer be made available to them because it is uneconomical?
Drastic measures that significantly impact the quality of life of our voiceless communities must be approached in a democratic manner that considers socio-economic impact. Did Minister F Khan just wake up one morning and say ‘let us go do this and let us go do that”?
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) are calling on Prime Minister Rowley to break his deafening silence.
Gary Aboud Corporate Secretary Fishermen and Friends of the Sea