Letter: New Year’s wish list

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Dear Sir:

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) once again gives thanks to all of our supporters.

This year our New Years’ wish list is an appeal to our government to:

1. Implement the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, 2015

The Public Procurement Act has been passed in Parliament since 2015. This critical legislation ensures oversight, provides a control mechanism and warrants the much needed transparency of government’s spending of the people’s money. Governments past and present have had a history of choosing contractors, acquiring marine vessels and helicopters without even a public tendering process. Why has the ministry of finance dragged his feet for the past three years to implement the Procurement Regulator and the Board of the Office of Procurement Regulation? No more time should be lost.

2. Our government to be more sensitive towards our environment and public health

On 21st December at the official opening of the Quinam Beach Facility, minister of works and transport, the Honourable Rohan Sinanan is wrong in stating that the 14 km road to this beach is located “in an environmentally sensitive area and we have to be careful how we are opening up the road”. There are only three environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) in Trinidad, these are the Aripo Savannas, Nariva Swamp and Matura National Park. Yet despite Minister Sinanan’s concerns, a 5 km highway is being erected on the last untouched, unsquatted southern boundary of the Aripo Savannas ESA, which is opening up the Savannas to more squatters and further threatening the rare, threatened, endangered, vulnerable, endemic and environmentally sensitive plants and animals.

3. Bring back regular gas for our fishers

Minister of energy and energy industries, F. Khan, must not adopt a dictatorial approach in ceasing the sale of regular gasoline which was necessary for our two-stroke engines, and for over 50,000 dependent fisherfolk, without any consultation or providing any viable alternatives.

4. Increase border control and protection

We must welcome refugees of our neighbouring country with open arms. However, they must enter legally and must be regulated. Trinidad already has a limited carrying capacity to provide the basic necessities to our citizens. Are we in a position to support an unlimited and unencumbered influx of refugees?

5. Sign the long overdue Escazu Agreement

Over 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries have already signed the critical United Nations “Escazú Agreement” on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters. Once signed and integrated into our local legislation, this necessary agreement is a huge step for environmental justice, democracy and transparency especially at a time when our environment is being vandalized whilst the authorities are paving the way to a barren future.

6. Stop certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) rubber stamping for seismic surveys

Recent (2017) professorial scientific studies have shown that zooplankton (small animals that form the basis of the marine food web) are completely decimated within a 1.2 km radius from the air gun blasts of seismic vessels. Zooplankton is necessary for the marine ecosystem as oxygen is necessary for us. For the past three years, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has granted 19 seismic surveys without the requirement of the long hard look of an environmental impact assessment (EIA). This EIA would mandate data collection before, during and after a seismic survey to adequately measure its impact on the fishery. This data would form the basis of the informed decision to force the oil companies to rehabilitate our fisheries and justly compensate our fisherfolk. Most recently, a CEC was granted to EOG (within 15 days of the CEC application being placed on the public National Register) to conduct a seismic survey on the east coast of Trinidad.

7. Lay the new water pollution rules fees structure in parliament because the polluter must pay

After a 11-year battle against the government over the unlawful fixed annual permit fee of TTD$10,000 for polluters as per the Water Pollution (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations, 2006, (regardless of the size and volume of contaminated water being released into the environment) FFOS was successful at the Privy Council. Yet despite the Privy Council court order instructing the government to implement new system within 12 months, the government has requested an additional year. There is indiscriminate dumping of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and hydrocarbons especially in our Gulf of Paria, yet the government is dragging its feet to lay this legislation. Our fishery and public health is in grave danger! Where is the amended Water Pollution Fees Regulations?

8. Enforce of the law without fear and favour

The EMA must be congratulated for finally designating our National Bird, the Scarlet Ibis an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) and the Forestry Division to lay charges against poachers for the possession of Scarlet Ibis’ carcasses. Yet, in March 2018, George and Aboud and Sons whilst constructing a seawall along the Las Cuevas Beach, excavated sand that destroyed many leatherback and hawksbill marine turtle eggs, both of which are designated as an ESS since 2014. Photo and video evidence has been submitted to the director of public prosecutions, since September 2018, yet to date, the matter has not been pursued. We urge our authorities to enforce the laws of our country without fear and favour

9. Pass the Beverage Container Bill

Since 1992, the Beverage Container Bill was first drafted to regulate the waste created by the beverage industry, yet despite being resurrected three times since (1999, 2008, 2012), has not been made Law. While our fish, soil and health is being contaminated by plastic, what is Dr Rowley’s legislative agenda for our environment?

May we be fortunate to be led by a benevolent, honest, and kind leader.

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

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