Foreign competition, the roller-coaster global economy and Government's lack of interest have contributed to the failing shrimping industry in Trinidad and Tobago, say local fishermen.
And shrimpers are now concerned that the authorities would soon move to shut them down.
This follows a meeting hosted by the National Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday.
Fishermen raised concerns that systems were being put in place to crack down on shrimping in local waters.
The fishermen also noted that they were fearful of speaking out as they would be victimised.
“They brought police officers at the meeting to intimidate the fishermen. That was not called for, as the fishermen went there with concerns. Many persons were afraid to speak out because they would be victimised by the Fisheries Division,” one boat owner said.
He said the meeting was held to discuss the Ministry's latest bycatch reduction project which prevents small fish and shrimp from being trapped in nets.
“And we support this. We agreed to install the device and participate in the trial. But persons from the division have publicly stated that the shrimping industry will be closed. Now it looks that this is happening and we cannot support this,” he said.
He added that several boat owners have been using a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) in nets for the past 12 years. “This is to ensure we do not have incidental capture of turtles and we agreed to this,” he said.
The boat owner said he was also concerned that there had been an increase in farmed shrimp in the local market.
He said unscrupulous fish vendors were mixing the imported shrimp with the ones locally caught and selling to customers.
“We have a lot of farmed shrimp on the market and this is an added burden to the economy. You need foreign exchange to import this and research shows that this kind of shrimp is not healthy to consume. There is no quota so people bring in how much they want,” he said.
Fishermen have called on the Government to respond to their concerns as their livelihoods were being threatened.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the Government was currently reviewing the existing legislation, addressing issues raised by the European Union regarding fisheries and the management of it.
He said the Government was also reviewing matters related to fisheries and aquaculture, including previous decisions on trawling dating back to 1984 right up to 2013/2014.