Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 13th 2016 Contents DEREK ACHONG
Fishermen from southwest-
ern Trinidad are challenging
claims by environmental
activist group Fishermen and
Friends of the Sea (FFOS) that
fish from the Gulf of Paria have
been poisoned by oil spilt over
the past three years.
In a statement issued yester-
day, Cedros Fisher Folk United
questioned the validity of a test
labelled Total Petroleum Hydro-
carbons (TPH) conducted by
FFOS on fish samples collected
last month, when a large quan-
tity of dead fish washed ashore
along the coast in La Brea.
During a press conference on
Thursday, the FFOS presented
the results of the its tests from
the Caribbean Industrial
Research Institute (Cariri) which
showed that samples collected
on July 25 had contained
between 334.99 and 2680.73
microgrammes of TPH per kilo-
gramme of fish tested. The
European Union s recommend-
ed limit of TPH in fish is 0.002
microgrammes of TPH per kilo-
gramme, which means that the
concentration of the toxins in
the fish was more than a million
times above the allowable limit.
The group questioned the
FFOS ability to single out its
results of fish caught La Brea
from those caught in other
points along the southwestern
"If the samples were taken
from a specific location, sub-
jected to certain circumstances,
how can one universalise the
problems of a specific area to
all areas?" the release asked.
The group also challenged the
FFOS claims that the high lev-
els of TPH were responsible for
increases in people suffering
from cancer in communities in
"How can one jump from
possible fish contamination to
a cancer spike in the south? Are
cancer victims consumers of
fish? What about other factors
such as health styles, fast foods
consumption; stress related fac-
tors; air pollution, et cetera --
air toxicity must be extremely
high in an area with at least
three neighbouring industrial
estates spewing its polluted
waste -- into the sea and
throughout the air; and an area
with poor health facilities," the
They contended that the
publicity of the issue would
seriously affect their livelihoods
as consumers would refuse to
buy their fish.
Extreme levels of
In a telephone interview yes-
terday, FFOS secretary Gary
Aboud rejected the criticism
being leveled at his organisation.
"If the fish were three and
four times the European bench-
mark we might have a less
alarming approach but it is 1.4
million times. That is stagger-
ing. We wish we were wrong.
We are just the messenger not
the culprits," Aboud said.
"We are not in any argument
with the fisherfolk.
"We have 20 years of service
and the last thing we would
ever want to do is taint or
destroy the livelihoods of the
people we have fought long to
defend," he said.
Aboud said it was almost
impossible to say that fish
caught in non-contaminated
water did not pass and feed in
contaminated zones due to fish
"This is serious situation.
How do we know that the
Salmon coming through the
Gulf of Paria is not swimming
unto the south or north coasts.
The fish are swimming in pat-
terns unknown to us. If a fish
is swimming through the con-
taminants and it swims down
to a different area and they
catch it, there is an equally inju-
rious situation," Aboud said.
While the group from Cedros
and the FFOS disagreed with
the testing, both were in agree-
ment that State-owned oil
company Petrotrin --- which
was responsible for the oil leak
in La Brea almost three years
ago and more recent incidents
of a smaller scale --- should be
Agency (EMA) chairman Nadra
Nathai-Gyan said that her
organisation s TPH tests on fish
collected around the same time
as the FFOS, were yet to be
completed by Cariri.
Nathai-Gyan said the results
would be made available on
Monday. Last month, the EMA
dismissed allegations from the
FFOS which claimed that the
fish washing ashore was caused
by the chemical Corexit- a dis-
persant used to contain and
clean up oil spills in 2013.
The EMA had said that its
tests showed that the fish did
not have parasites and had no
traces of Corexit. It ruled that
its preliminary investigations
showed that the fish was
dumped by trawlers operating
in the Gulf of Paria.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 13, 2016
Fishermen dispute dead fish test results
Bison graze on a parcel of land along Diggity Trace, Barrackpore, yesterday. Farmers are blaming the animals for the
destruction of their crops. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH (Inset) Farmer Ricky Gangadhar, who started a petition calling on the
authority to rid the community of hundreds of bison that roam the streets. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
Residents plan petition
With the support of dozens of res-
idents and farmers in Barrackpore,
farmer Ricky Gangadhar has started
a petition to rid the community of
hundreds of bison that roam the
streets at night.
Gangadhar, who says he was shot
last Tuesday after speaking out about
the animals, intends to take the petition
to Agriculture Minister Clarence Ramb-
harat on Monday to ask for his inter-
He is hoping Rambharat will order
the animals owner to secure them or
order the ministry to remove the ani-
mals from the streets if the owner does
not take responsibility for them.
When the T&T Guardian visited him
at his Ramsabad Trace, Barrackpore
home yesterday, Gangadhar broke down
in tears, as he expressed frustration
over the situation.
He says he was attacked by a relative
of the animals owner because meetings
with other farmers were held at his
home, where the problem of the bison
Gangadhar s story first broke on Ian
Alleyne s Crime Watch earlier this week
as he went to Alleyne to seek justice.
"I was in my garden spraying with
the spray can on my back when this
guy, who I know very well, came on
my land and he started talking to me,"
he recalled. "He was asking if I would
plough some land for him but same
time the breeze blow a rag off his hand
and I see him holding a gun."
After a scuffle in which he said he
feared for his life, Gangadhar escaped.
Yesterday, Gangadhar had many
questions over the alleged lack of action
from the Barrackpore Police Station.
"It is decades these people have
bison roaming through the village,
destroying crops, property and fright-
ening people, it has to stop sometime."
He is confident that he will be able
to amass 500 signatures by Monday.
In Ramsingh Trace, farmers Sanjay
Bridgemohan and Beepath Ramkissoon
reiterated Gangadhar s statements.
Ramkissoon said, "I have five acres
I usually plant, but because of the same
thing with the bison, I hardly plant
anything this year. It is very difficult
to plant and work so hard and the ani-
mals just trampling over everything."
I lost about $20,000 in one night."
A short distance away, in Seebalack
Branch Trace, residents also complained
about the bison.
Mechanic Baldath Sonilal said the
animals attacked his clients and dam-
aged one vehicle.
"I have customers afraid to come by
me because of that, I have to lose busi-
Resident Lilawatee Rajkumar said
she lives in fear that the animals will
"When I have to go to work in the
morning, I have to pay a taxi to come
all the way inside this road and pick
me up, cause I fraid to walk out," she
said. "If I can t get nobody to come
in, cause taxis fraid to work inside too,
I does walk up that hill and run down
the other side, cause I know the day
them things pick up with me, that is
Toxins a million
times over limit
Alladin: They are not my animals
Residents and farmers in Barrack-
pore continue to complain about
bison destroying their crops and prop-
erty but Azim Alladin, who was
reported to be the owner of the ani-
mals, says they don t belong to him.
In an interview with the T&T
Guardian yesterday at his farm in
Ragoonanan Trace, Barrackpore, Alladin
said his animals are properly secured.
"I have 30 acres of land that I graze
my animals on," he said. "Those bison
that you are seeing all in Diggity are
Alladin, 68, says he is the victim of
jealous neighbors who claim his animals
trespass and destroy crops.
"My animals are locked away here,
I do not know why people are saying
those things but those are not my ani-
Gov't intervention needed
Contacted yesterday, councilor for
the area, Vishnu Ramlakhan said Agri-
culture Minister Clarence Rambharat
needs to intervene on behalf of the
"Yes I am aware of those claims
made by farmers, I even made reports
to the police myself on behalf of several
farmers," Ramlakhan said. "This has
been ongoing for about 25 to 30 years
and it affects a wide area, from Rochard
Road, the whole lagoon road, Satnarine
Road, Seebalack Trace, Ragoonanan
Trace and more."
However, he said meetings held in
2012 with farmers and then Agriculture
Minister Devant Maharaj did not yield
He is now suggesting the ministry s
veterinarian team euthanise the bison
as they did in Cedros a few years ago
when wild bison were found roaming
"Up until now, we don t know who
the bison belong too, as they have never
been claimed. Maybe the vets need to
come in and do the same thing they
did in Cedros to these animals."
"Because every time a report is
made, the police say all the bison farm-
ers say those are not their animals and
it has caused many farmers to stop
planting crops because their crops are
always being destroyed."
He said there needs to be more
attention paid to the farmers and agri-
culture needs to be more of a priority
"No agency is taking this situation
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