Although complaints of illegal fishing in Grenada’s waters have been called a hoax by Fisheries Minister Alvin DaBreo, the Farmer’s Representative in the Senate, Dr. Dunstan Campbell has called for a Task Force to be established to properly investigate the claim.
Speaking at sitting of the Upper House of Parliament at Mt. Wheldale, St. George last week Wednesday, Sen. Campbell said because this problem is not new to Grenada, he believes very much what the fisherfolks are complaining about.
“A year and a half ago, I remember a fisherfolk at Gouyave was robbed at sea by another vessel. We were told that the people on that vessel were speaking Spanish. We are now having the situation on the Eastern Side of the island where the fisherfolks are allegedly encountering because of what is being said but at that particular point where a FAD (Fish Aggravating Device) is located. The fishermen are fearful of going out to that area to fish, an area which is dedicated for our fisher folks to harvest the natural resources of our country…”, he told the house.
According to Sen. Campbell, Grenada belongs to its people and “it is our sovereign right and as such we should be protected in the harvesting of those resources”.
“… Some people are saying that it (illegal fishing) is not real, others are saying that it is life threatening. I have seen reports of ministry people reporting that these incidences were taking place and action should have been taken, but they were not taken, so we are at the situation where it seems to be a crisis and some people are saying that it’s a hoax”, he said.
Dr. Campbell indicated that he would like to give the benefit of the doubt to those fisherfolks who are convinced that illegal fishing is taking place and photos have been promised to confirm the allegation.
He suggested that government should set up a task force to address the situation.
“My advice is that at this critical moment we must bring together the main players – put in place an action plan, so that we can address the situation. The fisher folks, they got the right, they are the right holders for those resources. We have the duty bearers, the policemen, the members from the Fisheries department who are supposed to protect our fisher folks…”, he said.
“…In fact, I spoke to a senior member in the fisheries and this guy said that he was asked to go out in the middle of the night to locate the vessel with…the Coast Guard boat and he was scared for his life in that little boat and they were supposed to be going after a boat about 10 times the size of this little (Grenada Coast Guard vessel) …so it’s like the elephant and the ants”, he added.
Dr. Campbell went on: “We should not endanger the lives of our security forces so they too have the right to be protected. So, I am saying that we should get down on the table, bring all the facts together and develop an action plan to address this very serious situation”.
Noting that the fisheries sector contributed $16 million to the economy in 2017, the farmer’s representative Campbell also noted that the issue of limited bait for fishermen should also be addressed urgently.
He said: “While we are dealing with the situation of foreign intervention, legal or illegal we also have in the Fisheries Sector, the very serious concern of bait. So whether or not you are not catching fish because foreigners are taking the fish, you also have the situation where you are not catching because you do not have bait.
“While we should put together a task force to address the problem of illegal fishing, we should also take into consideration the situation of bait, Mr President. The Fisheries Sector contributed 16 million dollars to our economy in 2017, it is an important sector that we should not play around with”, he remarked.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate and Minister of Climate Resilience, Senator Simon Stiell said the complaint of illegal fishing in Grenada’s waters was looked into but the search crew came up with nothing.
“In relative terms, Grenada’s fishing waters are rich compared to those of neighbouring territories so we present ourselves as a very attractive target for illegal fishing and that has always been the case and that will continue…”, he said.
“…We need to speak facts, the matter has been taken seriously by the Ministry of Fisheries and discussions have been taking place again at very senior levels. The Coast Guard, Mr President has been engaged beyond the small rubber dinghy that was mentioned – thorough investigation has taken place. The Coast Guard with its sea worthy vessel have been out patrolling, Mr President and are increasing their patrols but the feedback that we have received thus far, that’s not saying there isn’t a problem, but the reports thus far from the Coast Guard who are the most qualified formal means of assessing the situation, have said they are yet to find any evidence of what the Senator on the other side have spoken of,” he added.
However, Sen. Stiell welcomed the idea of a task force being put in place and described it as “an excellent suggestion”.
“The suggestion from the member that there be the establishment of the task force, which must include the Coast Guard; must include our fishermen; must include government; must include our fishing communities is an excellent suggestion and one that we will put forward because this threat is real; whether it is being exaggerated or whether it is being underplayed enough to get to the heart of it”, he said.