Seaweed horror for Mayaro fisherfolk

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

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