Interim President of the National Fishermen Organisation, James Nicholas has described recent attacks on local fishermen on the high seas between Venezuela and Grenada as acts of “State Piracy.”
Nicholas accused the Venezuelan oil tankers which come to St. George’s to deliver fuel to Grenada of facilitating the pirates who will attack the local fishing vessels including taking away their fishing gear and fish off their lines.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing organised by the grouping of Civil Society Organisations, he expressed concerns about the safety of Grenadian fishermen on the high seas.
He urged the administration in the Spice Isle to inform the fishing sector what is the safe distance for engaging in fishing between Grenada and Venezuela.
“We are of the opinion that until lives are lost that, maybe… we may see some action,” he said.
Nicholas made reference to an incident that occurred on May 15 involving a group of local fishermen and a Venezuelan military ship.
According to him, the personnel from the military ship boarded two of the fishing vessels and took away fish, jewellery and money.
Nicholas said that in recent times three fishing Long-liners with about 11 fishermen have been affected by the actions of the Venezuelans.
Recently, one local fisherman reported that $500.00 was taken away from him by Venezuelan Pirates.
The Interim President recalled that local fishermen started to encounter difficulties in September 2013 when a Long-liner was attacked by a Venezuelan battleship.
He said the incident was brought to the attention of Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Keith Mitchell, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nickolas Steele, and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Roland Bhola by way of a letter dated September 30th, 2013.
Nicholas read a section of the letter which said in part:… “We, therefore, urge the government to enter into urgent dialogue with the Venezuelan Government at the soonest possible opportunity in order to curb this wave of events that threatens the safety of our fishermen while at sea”.
According to Nicholas, to date no reply was received from the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to the letter.
“We in the fishing sector are very disappointed, we take this in a manner that the government does not care about the lives and safety of our fishermen,” he said.
Nicholas stated that unlike most other CARICOM countries, the fishing sector in Grenada is not as organised as it should be.
He said that in 1990’s a process was started to organise the fishing industry and at that time Grenada boasted of having the strongest fishing group in the Caribbean.
“Today, we are the weakest. Every CARICOM country… now could boast (of having) a national fisheries organisation. We are basically trying to resuscitate or reorganise what used to be a vibrant group of fishermen organisation in the ‘90’s,” he remarked.
Nicholas believes that the absence of an active fisherman’s association is one of the setbacks in the local industry.
The Interim President said the only way the problem with the Venezuelans can be halted is if the Grenada Government take steps to create a demarcation line between the two states.