Fishermen in T&T received over $77.3 million in payments as compensation for seismic activity from five oil companies between 2010 and 2013, the Ministry of Energy reported yesterday.The ministry released the information hours after dozens of fishermen from across Trinidad staged a demonstration in downtown Port-of-Spain yesterday to vent their anger at the impact that seismic surveys have had on fish stock.The protest took place near the Ministry of Energy, Waterfront Complex.According to the Ministry of Energy document, Centrica, Niko Resources, BGTT, bpTT and Repsol forked out $7,008,000 in 2010; $26,896,949 in 2011; $29,025,260.83 in 2012 and $14,375,986.44 in 2013. That totals $77,306,196.27 for the four-year period.The Business Guardian reported in its September 27, 2012 edition that when oil companies conducted seismic operations offshore, they usually compensated fishermen for lost catch and to stay away from their installations.T&T's largest oil and gas producer, bpTT, said in the article they paid about $8,545 a month a boat to the fisherfolk during the seismic period.
The leaders of associations of fisherfolk, quoted in the Business Guardian article, said the seismic surveys scared away the fish and damaged the seabed.The companies report these figures to the ministry to recoup part of it and benefit from tax incentives on capital expenditure.Compensatory payments to fishermen for the loss of earnings as a result of seismic activity were confirmed by Peter Glodon, the president of the T&T Unified Fisher Folk (TUFF) and the vice- president of the organisation, Kishore Boodram, both of whom participated in yesterday's demonstration.
At the protest, some fishermen held placards and protested on the boardwalk while approximately 50 fishing vessels gathered in the harbour.Fishermen from Cocorite and Sea Lots and as far as Icacos, Cedros and Blanchisseuse took part.The fishermen on the boats used bullhorns, flags and other methods to get the attention of spectators who gathered on the shore to watch the spectacle.In an interview at the protest, Boodram, who is also the president of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association, said fishing stock had been depleted by seismic surveys being done in local waters.The surveys use reflected sound waves to determine suitable sites for underwater drilling and exploration.They are said to disturb and distress marine life, especially cetaceans, such as whales, porpoises and dolphins.Petrotrin announced last week it would be doing surveys for five months, starting in December.
Boodram said: "It is time to stop, 'cause it has an impact on the livelihood of fishermen. Every day it is depleting more. We have them pounding on the seabed and in hatchery areas."What will happen? The fish stock will die and it is so bad that it has collapsed already. The hearts of fishermen are burdened so we can't take any more."Boodram said the hatching areas and mangroves were being "attacked" and the surveys prevented wildlife from surviving or procreating."They need to find another method because this has an impact on the industry. Our children have to live," he said.He said that had been a problem for turtles coming in to lay their eggs, dolphins and fish. In addition to the seismic surveys, trawlers, pollution and piracy have depleted the fishing stock.
He added: "We wrote to several ministers. Piracy is also another issue. We can't live with that. Every day fishermen go out there, they risk their lives."Oil and gas will finish but this was the first sector in T&T. They are treating us like vagrants and we are willing to work." Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud said a proper study was needed."Since the 1990s, they have been doing this and they made an announcement last week that they will be starting in December," he said.
President of TUFF Peter Glodon said the boat owners alone were compensated $222 a day by the Government during the survey period.He added: "That does not include the captain, the net repairers, the vendors. It can't even buy gas. It is ridiculous."We have been trying to get an audience with the minister for the past two years and the foreigners are coming and doing it and our local people are not showing an interest."Glodon complained about the lack of consultation with fishermen on the issue of the seismic surveys.He asked: "They picked up momentum without consultation. Who has the God-given right to destroy a man's working environment without consultation?"Nobody. That's what they are forcing on us."Diane Christian-Simmons, president of the Cocorite Facility and Fish Market Association, said the seismic surveys should follow proper regulations just as in any other country.She added: "T&T is basically an oil-based country that does not have proper regulations. They are raping and murdering our fisheries and it has dropped to nil."We want to be treated equally and protected the same as other countries. We are asking the Government to hold their hand until there is proper regulations."
EMA on seismic tests:A release from the Environmental Management Authority said specific conditions were set out for offshore seismic testing."These conditions make provisions for minimising the impact posed to sea turtles and marine mammals. "The conditions generally state that no seismic surveys will be conducted during the turtle-nesting period from March-August, the main leatherback turtle nesting season, and also during February as the leathers are breeding offshore."
Energy companies say:Petrotrin said during the survey no explosives will be used but "a discharge of compressed air to generate pulses for recording."In a media release yesterday, Centrica Energy said it adhered to health, safety and environmental regulations.It said it had no plans for conducting seismic surveying operations in T&T but stated the conduct of seismic surveys was deemed a "designated activity" that was subject to the application, granting and terms and conditions of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). The release added: "All interested or potentially affected stakeholders are allowed to scrutinise these CEC applications and voice any concerns they may have with the proposed activity in question. "The development of a compensation framework for affected fisherfolk and as well as having marine mammal observers to point out and record mammal sightings for avoidance during the survey is noted."