Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 30th 2014 Contents "The effect of the ocean on every
single person cannot be overestimated.
We all share one planet, one ocean. We
also share the responsibility to protect
it. Some people underestimate the dam-
age we do to the oceans every day..."
Overfishing: "Too much money chas-
ing too few fish..."
"Pollution has led to 500 dead zones
in the ocean, where life simply can't
Ocean acidification: "We are chang-
ing the chemistry of the ocean...we run
the risk of fundamentally breaking
"The good news: we know what to
do."These are some excerpts of Secre-
tary of State John Kerry s inau-
gural speech at the Our Ocean 2014
conference at the United States
Department of State in Washington,
There had been a whirlwind of
talks, networking and back-to-back
meetings at the conference. For the
first time since arriving in Washing-
ton DC, I had a serene moment.
Insulated in a cocoon of white noise
in my plane cabin, I have a chance
to re-evaluate my conference notes.
Appropriately, my plane had just
crossed the Florida coastline and
was now over the Gulf of Mexico,
which is still struggling to cope with
the after-effects of the 2010 Deep-
water Horizon oil spill.
The conference was a who s who
of heads of state, government minis-
ters, ocean scientists, environmental
activists and NGO leaders. I felt
honoured and humbled to have been
invited. One of the keynote speakers,
President Anote Tong of Kiribati
(pronounced Kiribas. True fact:
When Kiribati s language was first
written in around 1840, there was
only one typewriter on the island,
and the "s" key didn t work, so the
"s" was substituted by "ti." To this
day the letter "s" doesn t exist in
Kiribati) reminded us of the words
of famous ocean explorer, Jacques
Cousteau: "For most of history, man
has had to fight nature to survive; in
this century he is beginning to
realise that, in order to survive, he
must protect it."
This first item on the agenda was
IUU, an abbreviation that will
become more common to followers
of environmental issues. It stands
for Illegal, Unreported and Underre-
ported fishing. "Pirate Fishing" may
be a better term.
The nation of Kiribati, for
instance, receives only about eight
per cent of its marine resource value
per year. The remainder is lost to
rogue fishing fleets that engage in
illegal fishing activities or do not
stick to quotas.
These fishing fleets rob mostly
developing nations of their fair share
of fisheries income and endanger
global and regional fishing stocks.
Pirate fishing makes management of
fisheries impossible because fisheries
managers do not know how much
fish is stolen, so they can t set
proper quotas. It s something to
think about when we evaluate the
role of the foreign-owned long-liner
fleet based at Sea Lots. We ve
known for a few years now that
Trinidad is the sixth largest exporter
of shark fin to Hong Kong. This
came as a surprise to many because
we have no local data about these
exports. Luckily the Hong Kong
Census and Statistics Department
collects these statistics, otherwise we
would have never found out about
this trade. The shark fin trade goes
hand in hand with the Atlantic tuna
fishery. Tuna is the main catch for
these foreign-owned vessels, shark a
by-catch. Many of them are flagged
under the flags of convenience of
neighbouring Caribbean countries
like St Vincent and the Grenadines,
Grenada, Antigua and others. These
vessels make use of the ICCAT
(International Commission for the
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas)
Atlantic tuna quotas.
If we don t know how much
shark is being landed and exported,
then chances are that we don t
know how much tuna is being land-
ed and exported either. States are
being deprived of their share of
ocean revenue by pirate fishers.
The next point raised was ocean
pollution. Agricultural and industrial
runoff has created hundreds of dead
zones. Nitrates from excess fertilisers
cause algae blooms that deplete the
ocean of oxygen, causing mass die-
offs. Plastic pollution is reaching
epic proportions, and micro-plastics
threaten ocean and human health.
The third main point was ocean
acidification. It s the sibling of glob-
al-warming---induced sea-level rise.
Both are the offspring of our addic-
tion to fossil fuels, but its impact is
still unknown to many people.
The same carbon dioxide that
causes global climate change is
changing the chemistry of the
ocean. The ocean is becoming
increasingly acidic and this threatens
many plankton, shellfish and corals
that have structures made of calci-
Calcium carbonate dissolves in an
acidic environment. It can actually
threaten entire islands, some of
which are made of sand formed
from coral reefs.
Over the next three weeks I will
write more in-depth about each
subject. For next week s article, on
pirate fishing, I will collaborate with
Robin Ramdeen, a Trinidadian
marine biologist who has worked in
international conservation and is the
author of Pirates of the Caribbean:
IUU activities in Caribbean fisheries.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, June 30, 2014
Judging from the number of
persons who contacted me to
suggest that I write part two, it
would appear as though my last
column, Lucrative Pensions of MPs,
has struck a chord with readers.
Many people have asked me to go
into more detail, but before I do, I
must warn that the pedestals, on
which politicians from both major
parties have been placed, might
If the manipulation of the pension
laws became generally known, it
would tend to portray our political
leaders since Independence as elitist
and self-serving. And it would also
give the lie to the party propaganda
of caring for the masses that they
spout at election time.
On March 1, 1969, a piece of
legislation, entitled the Retiring
Allowances (Legislative Service) Act,
came into force. It was quickly
followed on March 27 by the
Pensions (Prime Minister) Act.
Those two acts have put in place
a regime which ensures that former
parliamentarians, who qualify for
pensions, would be set for life.
Ordinarily MPs qualify, at age 50
years, for a pension after a minimum
of eight years' service. The original
legislation made them pensionable
at age 55, but a 1989 amendment
reduced the qualifying age to 50.
I must point out that the eight-
year minimum and the age
restriction do not apply to the Prime
The holder of that office qualifies
for a pension of two-thirds of his
salary in less than an hour. Section 3
(1) of thePensions (Prime Minister)
Act states, in part:
"Every person who having been
appointed Prime Minister on or after
the 30th November 1966, ceases at
anytime after such appointment to
be Prime Minister shall be paid a
pension under this act with effect
from the date on which he ceases to
be Prime Minister..."
Put simply, a person who demits
office at any time after being
appointed PM is immediately
pensionable and becomes entitled to
receive a pension of two-thirds of
the highest annual rate of salary.
At current rates, a former PM
would be entitled to a pension of $11
287.53 per month.
However, if he opts for a gratuity
and a reduced pension, he would be
entitled to receive a tax free gratuity
of $423 282.50 and a reduced
pension of $8 465.65 per month.
After the politicians effectively set
themselves up for life in 1969, they
went about systematically
dismantling the pension
entitlements of most other public
servants. They started with the
most vulnerable by amending the
Casual Employees Pensions Act to
prevent persons who became casual
employees after July 1971 from
receiving a pension.
Hereafter, they were required to
rely on National Insurance or make
private arrangements for any
additional benefits that they may
Also, the retirement age for casual
employees was increased from 60
to 65 years, with a provision that
existing employees could opt to
retire at the later time on condition
that service after the workers' 60th
birthday would not be taken into
account in computing their pensions.
After dealing that knockout blow
to casual employees, the next
assault on the pension entitlements
of public workers came in 1975.
Government amended the various
pensions acts so that workers
entering public service employment
after September 1, 1975 would
continue to be pensionable but that
their Government pensions would
be reduced by the amount that they
receive from NIS.
In essence, the people at the
bottom of the public sector pay
scales would no longer get a pension
from the Treasury.
And to strengthen my point about
being elitist and self-serving, that
reduction did not apply to MPs,
judges and the Governor-General.
The restoration of pensions has
remained a matter on the agenda of
public sector unions until today.
Politicians take care of themselves
MARC DE VERTEUIL
ROGUE FISHING FLEETS---NEW
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
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