Some Claxton Bay fishermen are crying foul after a mysterious floating wooden jetty was built across prized fish spawning grounds in the Gulf of Paria.
When and how the structure was built without anyone in the area noticing anything is puzzling.
“But one minute there were mangrove, and when it was cleared we saw the wooden jetty,” said president of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association Kishore Boodram.
“We noticed the jetty over two weeks ago. This has attracted party boats that frequent the area, which upsets the sea grass beds and fish nurseries on the western coast near Sandy Point Bay,” he said.
Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee said he has made several complaints to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) on the issue and a proper investigation is needed.
He said a contractor in the area destroyed parts of the mangrove, but one has to wonder why someone would build a jetty in such a desolate area— in the middle of the mangrove.
Lee plans to look into it himself but says the onus is on the EMA to investigate the matter.
“They are destroying the mangrove. The problem is not only the jetty. One of the contractors in the area was sandblasting in the mangrove. I got several complaints from residents. I wrote to the EMA personally on the matter, but it seems they are powerless to do anything. It appears this contractor is friendly with certain Government officials,” Lee said.
According to Boodram, fishermen from Claxton Bay and outside the area depend heavily on the nurseries to supply them with an abundant catch. If the activities by these party boats go unchecked, he fears the thriving fishing grounds will be no more.
“We will not stand back and allow our mangrove to be destroyed,” said Boodram.
“The recent activities by these party boats result in littering and other debris, which negatively impacts the ecosystem.”
While some fishermen did not see the jetty as a serious problem, they were more concerned about party/beach goers being responsible for keeping the surroundings clean after they leave.
“Many of these party boats come from San Fernando and head here. Sometimes the tide low so they will use the jetty to come in as close as they can to offload passengers who want to head to the beach and have a good time,” fishermen said.
Though recent construction in the area has cut off access to the beach via foot and vehicles, the beach is a paradise, fishermen said.
“The jetty can only be accessed by boat. It is not stationary, it is moveable. They secured it at this point because they did not see any reason to move it, but if there is a problem it can be moved.”
For years, Boodram said, they have been fighting to save the area near Sandy Point Bay from pollution. He said the seabed grass nurseries are often inhabited with an abundance of fish, including sardine, herring, carite, redfish, cutlassfish and salmon.
“We cannot have vessels running over there and disrupting the natural habitat. Pollution is a serious thing and we need to protect our fisheries not just for us but for future generations,” he said.
According to Boodram, thousands of fish are caught daily and if the mangrove is no more, it will severely affect the livelihood of fishermen.
“We have no problem people enjoying the beach. Use it but don’t abuse it.”
Boodram said he has no clue as to the owner of the jetty, but wants a proper investigation by the Environmental Management Authority on the matter.
He did not have the exact dimensions of the jetty but estimated it to be a couple hundred feet long. He said the structure looked quite sturdy and could easily fit at least two to three people walking side by side.
“Whoever is responsible for the jetty, we would like it to be removed. If you want to go to another area for your activities that’s fine, just make sure you have authorisation to do so, but leave our fishing area to the fisher folk,” Boodram said.
Before any jetty is built, an application for a certificate of environmental clearance should be sought from the EMA.
Permission must also be sought from the Commissioner of State Lands and the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.