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Letter: La Brea community sentenced to death
Published on July 6, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

For the past 42 months since the eleven 2013 Petrotrin oil spills, major and ongoing fish kills have been occurring daily on the beaches of La Brea. Since December 2013, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) have recorded this event in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. FFOS have been visiting Point Sable Beach in La Brea, almost every Saturday, at the falling tide, since the beginning of this year.

Put plainly, this is an urgent environmental and public health risk. Government officials as well as the resident fishing association are turning a blind eye on this La Brea community who are at greatest exposure and risk, as they regularly catch and consume large quantities of their own freshly caught fish, which have been found in UTT’s laboratory tests to contain "significant levels" of the cancer causing triggers known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In the end, the government officials and the fishing association are not being mindful of who will suffer the most.

When fishing associations compromise themselves by accepting largesse from polluters and environmental degraders, they abandon their independence and undermine the foundation of community empowerment while jeopardizing the entire fisheries movement in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. Dangerous precedents have been established in La Brea. These precedents weaken all fishing and community organizations in every corner of our world.

Along the almost four-mile long Point Sable La Brea beach for this rainy season, FFOS have found fish along the length of the beach at frequencies averaging as much as one meter apart, upwards of 5,000 dead and dying marine species in a single high tide mark. A total of 22 species of fish have been counted in varying quantities including, blinch, blowfish, bouche, brunch, catfish, cavali, crapaud, cro cro, cutlass fish, fowl fish, gar fish, grunt, herring, joshua, moonshine, mullet, plato, power, red fish, rokando, salmon, sapate, tauret, tedral and chip chip, stingrays, crabs, shrimps, pelicans, corbeaux, and bottlenose dolphins. Except for corbeaux and pelican, everything is consumed by humans and other predators.

Again and again, FFOS appeal to the environmental institutions, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) and the ministry of planning or development to form a collaboration with the local stakeholders, to address this serious public health disaster effectively. Testing samples acquired from outside the Petrotrin Red Zone, oil spill heavily impacted area (Mosquito Creek to Point Fortin) does not address the critical danger of eating shrimp and fish from the La Brea Lagoon.

Months ago, the government announced that they will establish a regular monitoring programme for this area, but when will it be started? Will they be testing the levels of PAH content in the Aripero Lagoon and swamp, and in the flesh of sick and dying fish and shrimp of this area to determine if they are safe for human consumption? Based on the high consumption of fish and shrimp of the nearby fish consuming community, FFOS are most concerned for the regular localized consumers.

Unless our government treats this health disaster with a matter of extreme urgency, they will continue to endorse the endangerment of public life and public health. This is no matter to play politics with and those that do should be held accountable.

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea
Reads : 2902

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