Gas hike hits fishermen hard

Faced with a $1 in­crease per litre in the price of Su­per un­lead­ed fu­el, fish­er­men from South Trinidad are call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish an out­let so they can pur­chase reg­u­lar fu­el at a cheap­er price.

Reg­u­lar fu­el is a low­er grade of fu­el com­pared to su­per un­lead­ed and pre­mi­um un­lead­ed. How­ev­er, on­ly two out­lets in San­ta Flo­ra and Care­nage sell reg­u­lar fu­el and since the price in­crease, fish­er­men say they can no longer af­ford to buy Su­per gas.

At the Ota­heite Bay, An­tho­ny John said the new price hike would mean high­er fish prices.

"Nor­mal­ly we pay $590 for two 20 gal­lon booms and that lasts for half a day of fish­ing. Now we will be forced to pay al­most $736 to go out. We al­ready strug­gling to make a prof­it. With this price in­crease we just can­not af­ford to go far out at sea," John said.

Boat own­er Ran­jan Moti­lal said the re­cent oil spills, cou­pled with seis­mic ac­tiv­i­ty and oth­er forms of in­dus­tri­al pol­lu­tion had af­fect­ed their liveli­hoods.

"Now the Gov­ern­ment hit us with an­oth­er price hike for fu­el. It is ter­ri­ble. It is agony for us. They don't care about us fish­er­men.

“Peo­ple do not re­alise the sac­ri­fices we make when we go out to sea. Some­times we stay there for the whole day in the hot sun and in the night with lit­tle or no prof­it," Moti­lal said.

He added that the cut­lass­fish is abun­dant in the Gulf of Paria and be­cause this fish type was be­ing ex­port­ed, some fish­er­men were mak­ing a prof­it. How­ev­er, he added the fu­el in­crease would cause them to op­er­ate at a loss.

"I have a whole bin­load of bait wait­ing for fish­er­men to buy it to go out to sea but no­body went out as yet. Peo­ple are just frus­trat­ed," Moti­lal said.

He al­so rec­om­mend­ed that Gov­ern­ment set up a reg­u­lar gas sta­tion so that 120 fish­er­men from Oth­a­heite, 150 fish­er­men from San Fer­nan­do and 400 fish­er­men from Granville, Ce­dros and Bonasse could ac­cess cheap fu­el.

An­oth­er fish­er­man, Sasoon Boyce, said two 16 gal­lon booms usu­al­ly al­lows them to go out for 30 miles. With the gas in­crease, Boyce said they now have to pay $150 more for each trip. He al­so agreed they will now be forced to cov­er less dis­tance.

Con­tact­ed yes­ter­day La Brea Fish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Alvin La Bor­de al­so pre­dict­ed that the price of fish will go up be­cause of the gas hike.

“Fish­er­men are very frus­trat­ed right now. Peo­ple will crit­i­cise us when the prices go up but they should think about what we are fac­ing. Some peo­ple can af­ford to pay more for gas but we can­not," Bor­de said.

San Fer­nan­do fish­er­man Kur­land Paul said the pres­sure faced by fish­er­men was what caused them to get in­to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties. "Gov­ern­ment al­ways pres­sur­ing the poor peo­ple. We can­not earn a de­cent liv­ing. On­ly when we go in­to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties that peo­ple take heed of us," Paul said.

Con­tact­ed for com­ment yes­ter­day, Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, Land, and Fish­eries Clarence Ramb­harat said the is­sue of the gas sta­tion has to be dis­cussed with Na­tion­al Pe­tro­le­um (NP).

Head of NP Re­tail Net­work Al­li­son Khan-Ali could not be reached for com­ment yes­ter­day, as calls to her cel­lu­lar phones went unan­swered. NP Brand and Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er Denise Cae­sar was al­so un­avail­able for com­ment.

- by Radhica De Silva

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