Armed with a dead pelican and a catch of poisoned fish, secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) Gary Aboud said Government was covering up the extent of the damage to marine life from the Petrotrin oil spill which had affected La Brea and environs since December 2013.
Aboud also said COREXIT9500, a product line of oil dispersants used to dissolve oil spills, was posing a health risk to the ecosystem and human health during a protest outside the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) office at Elizabeth Street, St Clair, yesterday.
Aboud also said the EMA should “declare a state of emergency until there was an all-clear to eat fish.”
Aboud was accompanied by a group of fisherfolk Presidents from various communities extending from the Gulf of Paria to the North Coast.
Among them were Noel Simmons Cocorite Fishing Market, Diane Christian president of Cocorite Fishing Association and Market Vendors’ Association, Francis Gomez Alcan Bay (Chaguaramas), Anderson Zoe president of the Matelot Kingfishers Association, Bhadase Sooknanan vice president of Claxton Bay, Thackoor Baboolal of the Brickfield Fishing Association (south of Sea Lots) and Cecil McLean of the Las Cuevas Fishing Association.
They wanted a positive intervention from both chairman of the Institute of Marine Affairs Prof Indar Ramnarine and EMA chairman Allan Bachan.
Displaying a mullet, Aboud demonstrated the “poor health” of the fish which included blood on the sides. He said: “When you cut a healthy fish open the innards are not filled with blood. Since its stomach had ruptured, there is blood. The ruptured blood vessels under the scales is symptomatic of the COREXIT9500 poisoning.”
Aboud added: “At La Brea, there were about six pelicans walking around. There are almost no pelicans left. They were looking drunk. There are so many corbeaux there. It seems they are congregating there.”
Zeroing in on the cover- up, Aboud said: “Every day in La Brea, tons of fish are washing up. Almost daily, under the cover of night, they come with their tractors and are burying the fish. They are removing the evidence instead of tabulating data and testing the fish. While the government is mollycoddling Petrotrin, every night they come with their tractors. They have truckloads going and burying the fish. We don’t know what to do. All creatures are literally dying down in La Brea. We are arguing the fish in the entire Gulf of Paria are sick because fishermen are not catching anything.”
Aboud added: “Fish are dying by the millions. All the way from the EMA to the top, there is a massive cover-up. There is no investigation by the EMA. What has the EMA done? The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are pretending it is an invisible problem and FFOS will go away.” They are removing and burying the evidence at night. It should be indictable offence.”
Aboud painted a grim picture of the extent of the damage caused by COREEIT9500.
He said: “Pelicans can’t fly. They are poisoned because they are eating the fish. COREXIT 9500 is clogging up the blood vessels. A lot of other fish eat fish eaten by sick fish. It is a terrible situation with Corexit 9500. How much was used? We have filmed and captured large quantities. We have images of dolphins swimming in it. Bachan had not done anything at Gasparee Island. It is not restricted to La Brea people. Even “Down the islands”, people could get cancer. It is not an unreasonable concern because if the fish are dying and the pelicans are dying, we, too, can die. Innocent people are being poisoned. Mullet is used for the school feeding programme. This is a serious national catastrophe. The EMA and the IMA are unwilling to say how much COREXIT9500 they used.”
Aboud attempted to deliver a letter to Bachan but failed.
Instead, a police officer said he was told to inform Aboud the EMA would be sending a crew to La Brea to collect data.
Efforts yesterday to contact various officials on this issue proved futile.