Monday, January 22, 2018

Activist ‘heartbroken’ Govt ministers have abandoned environmental cause

WHERE are the Government ministers who used to march with us?” activist Gary Aboud asked yesterday, three days after being arrested on the Port of Spain Waterfront, while protesting seismic testing in local waters.

Aboud, head of the activist group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), said yesterday he was “heartbroken” that Government ministers who stood with the environmental movement while in opposition up to three years ago have abandoned the cause.

“Where is the current Sport Minister, Anil Roberts,” Aboud asked.

“He once marched with us. He once marched an aluminium smelter and for five years, he spoke against seismic testing with us.

“I am not disappointed, I am truly heartbroken by this.”

At a protest Tuesday on the Port of Spain Waterfront, Aboud, environmentalist Cathal Healy-Singh and La Brea fisherman Wayne Henry, were arrested for staging a demonstration without authorisation and for resisting arrest and obstructing the police in their duties.

The protest included dozens of activists, fisherfolk and game fishers, who are calling for Government to impose stricter regulations on energy companies exploring local waters. 

Aboud said it was sad  that none of the now-Government representatives who were once prominent on the environmental scene could be found when he and the others were “brutalised” by the police on the Waterfront.

Responding as well to a media statement Wednesday from energy giant, bpTT, Aboud accused the multi-national of distorting the facts of underwater seismic testing.

Speaking via telephone, he said bpTT’s claims that modern standards of seismic testing have made it safe, is a misrepresentation of the truth, as leading independent studies continue to suggest the use of airguns in this type of testing is detrimental to marine life.

“The fact is that these sounds, generated by airguns, are shattering,” said Aboud.

“I wonder if Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar or any of the energy people who are claiming the practice has no negative effects, would be willing to swim in the water while it is being done.”

Aboud said an average of 25,000 airguns are typically used in one seismic test, each emitting a sound up to 260 decibels. The human threshold for pain caused by sound is 130 decibels, he said.

Some conservationists have claimed seismic testing of any kind is devastating particularly to small and young fish and fish eggs, as it can cause them to explode. 

The practice has also been blamed for severe disorientation in large marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, and marine turtles, possibly causing their deaths.

Tuesday’s protesters have contended that the same companies are bound by hard environmental regulations in their home countries and most First World countries in which they operate, making it mandatory that they provide an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before testing.