Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2015 Contents A24
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 21, 2015
Rick MacPherson, global shark con-
servationist: "I ve been awake and
surrounded by shark death here in
Trinidad since 4 am. I m now both
physically and emotionally drained.
I ve witnessed more shark mortality in
one day in Trinidad than I would doc-
ument in a year, or more, on other
I ve never seen shark consumed and
traded more any place outside of Asia
than I ve seen in Trinidad. Trinidad is
certainly the epicenter of shark con-
sumption within the Caribbean."
It s been a long road-tripping day
for our little group of three consisting
of MacPherson, Stacy Beharry-Baez
and myself. We are on a shark survey
mission to markets in Trinidad. The
purpose is to see what is on sale.
Beharry-Baez is a Trinidadian PhD,
originally from Princes Town, who was
recently appointed Senior Associate,
Global Shark Conservation at PEW
Environment in Washington DC. Her
job is to work with government lead-
ers, scientists and fisheries experts to
highlight the importance of sharks and
urge countries to take measures to
MacPherson travels around the
world to help governments and NGOs
protect sharks. He is equally at home
in marine conservation conversation
with government ministers as with
This month MacPherson has trav-
elled nonstop throughout the
Caribbean. His quest to save sharks
sometimes leaves him with just a few
hours sleep. When I tell him we have
to leave Port-of-Spain at 4.30 am to
do our shark market survey he gives
me a good cut-eye. But there is a
sparkle in his eyes and he says "any-
thing for the job." You need a bit of
passion to work in conservation.
Well before dawn we reach the
wholesale fish market Orange Valley.
The first fish vendor s pickup truck
catches our eye. Several distinctively-
shaped scalloped hammerhead sharks,
caught in Manzanilla on the other side
of the island, are on display, ready for
sale. They are listed as globally endan-
gered on the IUCN Red List.
MacPherson points out that just the
day before, on September 14, 2015,
this species of shark was added to the
CITES (Convention on the Interna-
tional Trade in Endangered Species)
Appendix II list. That means that they
cannot be traded internationally unless
they are sourced from a sustainably
managed and scientifically assessed
shark fishery. CITES listing does noth-
ing to protect sharks locally. It is an
international trade restriction, not a
fisheries management tool.
Trinidad has a high consumption of
shark but the Fisheries Division main-
tains that shark is not a targeted
species and therefore it does not have
a mandate to track local population
numbers. Most shark in Trinidad is
caught by destructive, nonselective
gillnets. They are considered bycatch.
Fisheries is working on a National
Plan of Action for sharks. Hopefully
this will fill in the gaps.
From Orange Valley the next stop is
the Fishing Centre at Claxton Bay.
There are a lot of boats but not much
fish. Spread out on a table is the 12-
hour catch of three fishing pirogues.
It s about 60 pounds of fish. One or
two of the fish still have some life in
them. They spasm occasionally. It is
hard to see how the fishers can make
a living. Maybe this is one of the rea-
sons why they fight so hard for com-
pensation from the oil and gas com-
panies. Tragically one fisherman tells
us how about 30 years ago sawfish,
locally called sword shark, could be
seen right offshore the fishing depot.
They are all long gone. As are the
sharks, which are now rarely landed
here. The fisherfolk acknowledge that
overfishing is to blame but also point
to the loss of seagrass beds, man-
groves and oil and industrial pollution.
At the end of the day we find our-
selves in the air-conditioned offices of
Trinidad Seafood Limited (TSL). TSL
is the largest distributor of seafood in
T&T. Four refrigerated containers are
attached to the warehouse loading bay.
TSL used to source a large amount of
their product locally but as the coastal
fishery collapsed they are forced to
import most of their seafood. It
sources all its shark from outside of
Economically and environmentally
the fisheries sector in T&T is unsus-
tainable. Countries around the world
have had splendid results in turning
around faltering fisheries. Stock
assessment, management and enforce-
ment is key. This can save our fish-
eries, provide sustainable jobs and cut
our food import bill.
For shark conservation the best
solution is a shark sanctuary. There is
near zero-enforcement. The only real-
istic thing to do is to close the entire
shark fishery, like we did with turtles.
A complicating matter is that sharks
are bycatch, caught in those destruc-
tive gillnets, also just like turtles.
MacPherson never tires of saying
that nobody knows how to catch---or
not catch---fish better than a fisher. A
lot of what is bycatch today will not
get entangled in nets once laws are
enacted and enforced.
ROAD TRIPPING FOR
MARC DE VERTEUIL
Never look a gift horse in the mouth
On August 29, on page A19, there was a full-page advertise-
ment from Flow, with the banner headline "This Independence
get 10 FREE movies." They explained three things, firstly go to
Channel 1000 etc, secondly, (and here is the catch), "choose a
total of any 10 movies from any folder of your choice," and lastly
it said your movies will be credited in your October 2015 invoice.
At the bottom it states the promotion runs from Saturday 29 to
Like anyone else we like a little freeness, especially since Flow
was cutting some channels, I figured it was the least they could
do. But still I phoned to make sure it was free.
I still have the advertisement with the name of the Flow rep-
resentative on it, and that young lady has since apologised to
me and explained that I will not get a rebate after all. It seems
she along with other Flow employees misunderstood the adver-
tisement the same way I did, and they were also fooled, and as I
suspect, many other customers.
You see with these folks you just never look a gift horse in the
mouth; you have to check the hoof and all. And the devil is in the
details. When they say "a total of any 10 movies from any
folder," this means you have to take ten, not like most would as-
sume, up to ten. I took six so I will not get a rebate.
As I told their representative, this is just one more straw Flow
is putting on customers backs. Any company wanting the busi-
ness of our people should never mislead us by wording their ad-
vertisements in a manner that might be misunderstood.
Here's how to save hundreds of millions
Here is an idea that the Government can consider to reduce
operating costs. If accepted, it will be saving hundreds of millions
of dollars. After the 2002 government was installed, it started
the practice of purchasing luxury Prado vehicles for all ministry
departments. This ran into hundreds of millions of dollars. Many
of these vehicles were used indiscriminately and even directors
of departments, after being chauffeured, would make the illegal
claim for travelling allowance every month. If these two matters
are seriously addressed, hundreds of millions of dollars will be
saved. Also, not too long ago, the Ministry of Works operated a
furniture factory at Long Circular. All government furniture,
desks, chairs, laboratory furniture etc, were manufactured with
Some genius discovered a way of replacing these by purchas-
ing metal and plastic (environmentally unfriendly and less
durable) furniture from some private company as a money-mak-
ing exercise. If this practice is reverted, employment will be gen-
erated and hundreds of millions of dollars saved.
Next, government officers are the most inefficient users of
office equipment. With changes in technology, offices easily pur-
chase ultra expensive laser colour photocopiers, which are used
indiscriminately. These are very expensive equipment which
malfunction through overuse. A lot of these equipment is used
for private work. This practice must cease immediately.
Can we stop this? Only time will tell. This certainly will result
in saving millions of dollars.
It's Your Write
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