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Gas hike hits fishermen hard

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Otaheiti fish vendors stand in front of the Oatheiti Retail fish vending facility which has been closed since 2016. Photo by:KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Faced with a $1 increase per litre in the price of Super unleaded fuel, fishermen from South Trinidad are calling on the Government to establish an outlet so they can purchase regular fuel at a cheaper price.

Regular fuel is a lower grade of fuel compared to super unleaded and premium unleaded. However, only two outlets in Santa Flora and Carenage sell regular fuel and since the price increase, fishermen say they can no longer afford to buy Super gas.

At the Otaheite Bay, Anthony John said the new price hike would mean higher fish prices.

"Normally we pay $590 for two 20 gallon booms and that lasts for half a day of fishing. Now we will be forced to pay almost $736 to go out. We already struggling to make a profit. With this price increase we just cannot afford to go far out at sea," John said.

Boat owner Ranjan Motilal said the recent oil spills, coupled with seismic activity and other forms of industrial pollution had affected their livelihoods.

"Now the Government hit us with another price hike for fuel. It is terrible. It is agony for us. They don't care about us fishermen.

“People do not realise the sacrifices we make when we go out to sea. Sometimes we stay there for the whole day in the hot sun and in the night with little or no profit," Motilal said.

He added that the cutlassfish is abundant in the Gulf of Paria and because this fish type was being exported, some fishermen were making a profit. However, he added the fuel increase would cause them to operate at a loss.

"I have a whole binload of bait waiting for fishermen to buy it to go out to sea but nobody went out as yet. People are just frustrated," Motilal said.

He also recommended that Government set up a regular gas station so that 120 fishermen from Othaheite, 150 fishermen from San Fernando and 400 fishermen from Granville, Cedros and Bonasse could access cheap fuel.

Another fisherman, Sasoon Boyce, said two 16 gallon booms usually allows them to go out for 30 miles. With the gas increase, Boyce said they now have to pay $150 more for each trip. He also agreed they will now be forced to cover less distance.

Contacted yesterday La Brea Fishing Association president Alvin La Borde also predicted that the price of fish will go up because of the gas hike.

“Fishermen are very frustrated right now. People will criticise us when the prices go up but they should think about what we are facing. Some people can afford to pay more for gas but we cannot," Borde said.

San Fernando fisherman Kurland Paul said the pressure faced by fishermen was what caused them to get into illegal activities. "Government always pressuring the poor people. We cannot earn a decent living. Only when we go into illegal activities that people take heed of us," Paul said.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Land, and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said the issue of the gas station has to be discussed with National Petroleum (NP).

Head of NP Retail Network Allison Khan-Ali could not be reached for comment yesterday, as calls to her cellular phones went unanswered. NP Brand and Corporate Communications Manager Denise Caesar was also unavailable for comment.


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