The fisherman’s plea

Much controversy and worry continues to follow the recent incident in which “four divers died… after they were pulled into a 30-inch Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd underwater crude oil pipeline in Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25 while working on it.” The entire story has rightly been called a national tragedy by Mr Paolo Kernahan and, as in the worst of national tragedies, the sadness is very national in the sense that it multiplies among locals the more one is acquainted with the facts and their consequences. Without downplaying the sadness of one group of nationals over another, this article highlights the sadness of those involved in the fishing industry, mainly due to the location of this incident and the response of Paria Fuel and other authorities.  

The four unfortunate divers lost their lives near Paria Fuel’s “berth 6” pipeline. Since the installations of these large island-like berths (of which berth 6 is only a part), small baitfish have been gathering near and between these berths. These small baitfish such as Joshua and Herring are attracted to these berths for two reasons. Firstly, at night, the large number of lights on these berths attract the bait because they mistake the lights for the moon. Secondly, during the day, the bait tends to remain near this large structure so as to avoid the attacks of potential predators such as cutlassfish, pelicans, and fishermen. 

Since the beginning of 2022, fishermen say they have been catching baitfish and cutlassfish near the berth 6 island-like structure without any restraint or causing any humbug to Paria Fuel’s operations. Yet these fishermen claim that a drastic shift in policy seems to have occurred with the authorities since the February incident. “Before the divers incident” one fisherman says, “we were able to seign bait close to the berths, the most that might occur is that the security boat will ask us to leave because a big ship might have been coming in. We always catch bait here for the market and to provide larger fishing boats with bait to catch fish like kingfish and carite. Because now they had this big problem, which was probably their (Paria Fuel’s) fault, fishermen have to suffer the consequences. It is so unfair and ridiculous!”

Owners and sailors of larger commercial fishing vessels say they too have been negatively impacted by the inability to get bait due to the hostile actions of the authorities. One owner said “it is understandable that the authorities such as the Paria fuel security boat, the coast guards, and police boats prevent fishing activities near the berth while recovery operations are in place. Yet all the divers were recovered so why not allow this important part of the fishing industry continue again? Fishermen already are having a hard enough time, covid severely affected the fish market. Without bait now our boats cannot go out to catch fish, this is a serious issue! I believe the government must step in and demand that the authorities cease such aggressive action towards a harmless thing as catching bait.” 

Fishermen who catch the bait for both local consumption and for larger vessels, admitted “yes we go a bit close to the berth, but we have never caused anyone to die or even caused an injury to anyone, actually think about it, was it not on Paria Fuel’s watch that the four divers died? So why cut us off from our livelihood? They built these berths, making the bait go there, we are only following the bait, that is our source of survival!” 

Fish vendors too have been affected since they have not been able to purchase or sell the fish that the bait boats would have caught. One such vendor said “according to a recent news article I read, the berth 6 pipeline has been inactive since before 2018 so why is there a big scene for these fishermen to go a little close to that berth? These men are feeding the nation, they are not going on the berth or causing any real major problem, they never have done that before, it is not fishermen that changed and got worse since February, it is Paria Fuel and their stupidity.”

868 Media hopes to reach out to Paria Fuel for a response to these fishermen in the near future. 

May God bless our nation!