Fishermen have been warned to steer clear of the oil-stained waters off the southwestern peninsula.
The warning came yesterday from vice-president of Trinidad and Tobago Unified Fisherfolk (TTUF) and president of Claxton Bay Fishing Association, Kishore Boodram.
He also said the oil spills should be a learning experience for Trinidad and Tobago, adding that he was disappointed that this country was not equipped to deal with oil spills effectively.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Queens Beach (aka Coffee Beach) in La Brea yesterday, Boodram said, “We have had some many small oil spills in this country. We are an oil industry, why don’t we have a proper contingency plan? This should be a learning experience for the authorities. This oil spill will continue spreading to Guapo and Cedros and fishermen must be aware in those areas. Don’t come and fish between that oil, you will get yourself in difficult problems.”
Boodram said in his 30-plus years as a fisherman, the oil spill at La Brea was the worst he had ever seen. “I came here to give support to the fisherfolk and I could not believe what I saw. We saw some drops of oil, like raindrops, in the waters off Claxton Bay, but this oil here is like flood. I feel sorry for the residents in this area,” he said.
Boodram said the oil spill along the southwestern coastline was affecting the entire Gulf of Paria. “This is a powerful fishing area. We come down here to fish, so this will affect us all. My vessels have been fishing here for the past 30 years. I am sorry for the boat owners and families who depend on fishing for their livelihood at this time,” he said.
Boodram said he was not satisfied with the clean-up exercise. “They are scraping the oil and banking it on the seashore, when the tide comes it, that will wash into the sea again. They should have a crew of about 200 people down here, working to get this mess cleaned up,” he said.
A Ministry of National Security helicopter hovered, as Petrotrin officials continued an assessment of the area yesterday.
Parts of Queens Beach were cordoned off allowing workers to mop up the oil, while air quality tests were conducted.
Boodram said fishing pirogues were stained with oil and several nets were lost. “These nets cost between $15,000 and $20,000. I will advise these fishermen not to go close to that oil,” he said.
Boodram cautioned residents to vacate their homes during the clean-up, especially children and pregnant women.
And families living along the coastline remained in their homes yesterday, refusing to evacuate to a shelter at the La Brea Community Centre. The residents said they were not prepared to leave their homes and belongings behind during the holiday season.
Last Friday residents were advised against cooking and lighting fires in the area. Petrotrin and other corporate citizens have been providing them with food and other supplies.
Many residents have been employed by the three contractors engaged by Petrotrin to clean up the coastline.
The Express was told that the workers have been placed on two 12-hour shifts to ensure that the areas are cleaned within the shortest possible time.