Monday, January 22, 2018

Seismic surveys devastating fish population

The rising food import bill is not imaginary. Trinidad and Tobago had one of the richest and most bio-diverse wild fisheries remaining on the planet, yet year by year the price of fish keeps rising up, out of reach of our average citizen.

Fish prices are skyrocketing because governments have allowed continued shrimp trawling and are now permitting the bombing out of our seas by marine seismic surveys for oil and gas companies which electronically detonate miles of submerged explosives, which result in ear-blasting decibel levels, which are shown to cause the stampeding of all marine life away from the sound for a distance of the study area of 50 kilometres, and in recorded instances implode the innards of some fish.

When these fish stampede, they do not have the protection of their tightly knit swimming formation/pod system from predators through their swift circular swim pattern as a group. Without the protection of a school, the fish stampede often results in the fish being isolated, and thus are easily preyed upon. The impacts on our local and migratory fish populations and on our rural communities have been devastating!

To our knowledge, seismic surveys started here almost ten years ago.

When it started in Tobago, the late Emile Louis (a foundation member of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Fisherfolk Association and a past member of the Monitoring and Advisory Committee of the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture (now disbanded), complained of the corresponding collapse of the flying fish industry at the same time the seismic surveys began. In 2003, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) did not know what we know now about the global impact of seismic surveys. In 2011, FFOS produced, with the technical assistance of university lecturer Dr Persadie, a 62-page working paper series booklet, which is a summary of all available key published research done on seismic surveys worldwide (available for $5 from What this booklet shows is that there is an extreme danger of conducting seismic surveys where fish spawn, or near to migratory paths travelled by fish. In other words, seismic surveys are bombing out our seas around us.

FFOS is calling on our Honourable Minister of Food Production, Lands and Marine Affairs Devant Maharaj and on our Honourable Cabinet members to:

1. Urgently appoint a special investigatory committee with a timely terms of reference to investigate and advise Cabinet on appropriate legislative amendments and policies regarding the possible/probable impact of seismic surveys on all marine life and, in particular, on the commercial fishery on which an officially estimated 52,000+ of our working nationals are dependent.

2. That all future and current seismic surveys are postponed until this special investigatory committee can report to Cabinet on an appropriate strategy/legislative amendment/ regulatory regime (similar to what exists in eastern Canada) to mitigate the devastating effects of these seismic bombings and fish stampedes.

3. That the Environmental Management Authority recall and withdraw all current seismic survey approvals granted in the waters of Trinidad and Tobago until Cabinet can determine an appropriate and sustainable course of action to protect our vulnerable communities who are vulnerable and without a voice.

If our Government fails to act swiftly, it would have done an unforgivable injustice to future generations, while summoning a thundercloud of discontent.

Terrence Beddoe

President, Fishermen

and Friends of the Sea