Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 29th 2013 Contents A7
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
In Light of
The Natural answer
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T&T s fish stocks cannot survive the
seismic surveys being undertaken by
Petrotrin and other foreign oil companies,
according to the president of Cocorite Fish-
ing Facility and Fish Market Association.
In a letter to the T&T Guardian, Dianne
Christian-Simmons also accused Petrotrin,
the Environmental Management Authority
(EMA) and the Ministry of Energy of "hood-
winking" and "misleading" the people of
T&T with "half truths" about the marine
The surveys are the method by which
energy companies, like Petrotrin, search for
oil and natural gas reserves beneath the
In the past 13 years, Christian-Simmons
says, 56 seismic surveys have taken place in
the waters around T&T. Each survey can
take between one and six months, sometimes
In a statement by Petrotrin last week in
full-page advertisements, the state-owned
oil company defended its method of sur-
"During the survey no explosives will be
used but a discharge of compressed air (will
be used) to generate pulses for recording."
It suggested that method, which involved
airguns firing blasts of compressed air
towards the ocean floor, could actually
increase fishermen s yields.
"In some instances," it says, "the fish in
the immediate vicinity of the emitting device
move to lower depths resulting in an
increased fish catch thereafter."
Christian-Simmons, an active fisher for
more than 20 years, described those claims
as "absurdity" and "nonsense."
Citing research papers compiled by Fish-
ermen and Friends of the Sea, Gary Aboud s
action group, which include studies carried
out around the world by the Food and Agri-
cultural Organisation of the United Nations
(UNFAO), she said that evidence from Nor-
way, Canada, Australia and the UK showed
far-reaching and long-lasting effects on fish
in areas where seismic surveying was in
"What they (Petrotrin) have not said,"
Christian-Simmons says in her letter, "is
that the noise level generated from the air
guns used to fire off the compressed air
exceeds 250 decibels."
She compared that to the decibel level of
a jackhammer (120 db). A jet taking off has
a decibel level of 150.
Noise travels further underwater, she said,
and studies by the UNFAO showed that fish
were shown to "scamper for more than
50km" to escape the blasts.
The supposed "increased catch" referred
to by Petrotrin, she said, was the result of
fish fleeing the scene and being caught in
nets in their droves.
The long-term outcome, however, she
said, was that the fish did not return to their
familiar breeding ground.
Meanwhile, fish eggs and larvae could not
escape the blasts and were killed, she said.
Last week the fishing community protest-
ed the irreparable damage they feel is being
done to their livelihoods.
Petrotrin and other companies have paid
out compensation but not for the depletion
of fish stocks.
The compensation is for the amount of
time fishers are prevented from fishing in
the waters where surveys are begin carried
On Friday, the T&T Guardian reported
that $77.3 million in compensation had been
paid to the fishing community between 2010
and 2013 by five oil companies.
Not all fisherfolk
The first compensation was apparently
paid in 2011 by Centrica Energy and Niko
Resources who carried out a joint venture
on the north coast.
The compensation was seen by the com-
munity as not only too little (far less, they
say, than the $8,545 a month stipulated by
the Ministry of Energy) but was also paid
only to those who have historically fished
on the north coast.
This, Christian-Simmons feels, is not
Fishers from the west coast, for example
Port-of-Spain and Carenage, whose fisheries
have been depleted over the past decade,
have moved north to catch their hauls but
were not included in the compensation pay-
However, the fishing action groups have
given examples, such as Cocorite fishermen
being paid just $3,600 each for the duration
of one survey which lasted five months, far
below what the government recommends.
There is currently no external scientific
body or agricultural organisation carrying
out research into the depletion of fish stocks
in the Caribbean or the impact of seismic
surveys in T&T s waters.
BVI NEWS ONLINE---
The Royal Virgin Islands
Police Force has report-
ed that during a recent
search of a vessel on
Virgin Gorda, its officers
seized a total of
US$244,150 in a gas
stove and microwave
oven destined for T&T.
Reports are that the
police s Marine Branch
and Special Investiga-
tions Unit carried out a
routine search of the
inter-island cargo vessel
Elitta 1 as it was prepar-
ing to leave the dock in
During a search of the
cargo hold on October 19,
the police reportedly
"found $244,150 secreted
in a gas stove and
microwave oven destined
Acting police informa-
tion officer Sgt Carl
Mason revealed the
seizure but did not dis-
close whether anyone
The force, in the
meantime, has made an
appeal for anyone with
information on the
seizure to call 311 or leave
ly by calling the
Fisherfolk on seismic surveys:
US$240,000 found in stove bound for T&T
Members of the Premala Dance Academy during
their performance at SouthEx at the Southern
Academy for the Performing Arts on Saturday
night. The expo which began last Wednesday
ended on Sunday. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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