Fishermen who ply their trade in the Atlantic Ocean, off the south-east coast of Trinidad, say the return of the sargassum seaweed is affecting their ability to catch fish.
A large amount of the seaweed began washing up along the southeastern coast, particularly along the Mayaro shoreline, over the last two weeks.
Fishermen say the seaweed damage their nets and engines.
With their increased cost for super gas after regular imports were halted, fishermen complained that they don’t have the money to repair their boats and nets.
Some fishermen have been forced to anchor their boats and work for other fishermen in order to get a day’s pay.
Fishermen throughout the country have been protesting since they stopped receiving a supply of regular gasoline after Petrotrin’s closure.
Speaking at the Ortoire fishing port yesterday, Selwyn Bedayse, a fisherman for over 30 years, said, “Right now we struggling. It is really hard for us and nobody cares.”
He said previously $300 in regular gas would last them a day. But, now a 20-gallon can of super gasoline costs them $540 and they use at least two cans or more of gas per day, depending on how far they venture out to fish.
“And the super burning out faster. So the gas price double for us and we burning double gas too.” Bedayse who owns two boats complained that in one week he spent $10,000 in gas and ice and did not even make back his money. Bedayse said he heard that Tobago never had a supply of regular gas. While this may be so, he said in Tobago there is a scheduled price for fish.
“We don’t have that here. When the boats come in with the fish. The vendors call a price. What price they say, goes. They are the ones making the money.”
Now with the return of the seaweed, he said fishermen are facing more hardships.
“Last year, I spend $4,500 to fix back my net. And now it worse than when I fix it and is because of that same grass (seaweed). That really affecting us. Sometimes you can’t go out. The grass wraps up your net. Normally, I do not have my net run down like that but with the gas price and you have to fight up to make a living, I cannot afford it. The grass is mash up your engine too.”
Bedayse complained that to date no one from the Ministry of Agriculture or the Fisheries Division has reached out to them.
“My suggestion is really to bring back the regular gas or give us a subsidy on the gas. Fishing come under Agriculture Ministry and if somebody garden gets flood out, they getting a lil compensation. When the grass come or anything and we under pressure we can’t go out to sea, we have family just like everybody and nobody even say they will give us ah lil compensation. So it is hard on us.”
Complaining that the fishing area from Guayaguayare to Manzanilla is being neglected, fisherman David Francois said they don’t even have cold storage for their fish or a gas station.
“There is one gas station in Mayaro with two pumps which has to service the whole area, fishermen and visitors passing through. It is unfair and something needs to be done.”
He said fishermen now have to venture further out to fish because of the rigs and other offshore activities taking place.
Lifeguard Sheldon Toppin said the amount of seaweed washing ashore has been increasing and he expects that the volume could surpass the amount witnessed last year.
Visitors at the beaches at Plaisance and Church Street, in Mayaro, were more concerned that the washroom facilities were not working.
In response, Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation chairman Glen Ram said they have been getting calls from residents and visitors to clean up the beaches. He said normally they would send their equipment to remove the seaweed, but their trucks are parked up.
“We don’t have the funds to repair them and they cannot pass inspection. So we are in a predicament,” said Ram.
He again called on the Rural Development and Local Government Ministry to give them the funds needed to repair the equipment and have them inspected.
Reporter: Sascha Wilson