Fishermen plying their trade in the Gulf of Paria have become so afraid for their lives since five of their colleagues were murdered at sea that they are taking no chances when it comes to pirates.
In an incident around 3 am on Wednesday, two fishermen cut their nets and fled for shore after they saw a boat approaching them at high speed.
Later that day, however, they learnt that the approaching vessel was a friendly one and not pirates as they had assumed.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) spokesman Gary Aboud highlighted the incident yesterday and told Guardian Media that the fishermen were afraid to be identified.
“They are receiving threats so everyone is afraid to be identified, people want to say we are exaggerating but it’s not their lives on the line,” Aboud said.
“They cannot talk about certain things because their lives are on the line and they are the ones out at sea exposed to these risks.”
On July 22, five fishermen were killed by gun-toting pirates after they were attacked and robbed in the Gulf of Paria. Those five were: Anand Rampersad, Shiva Ramdeo, Leslie De Boulet, Brandon Kissoon and Hemraj Sooknanan. Two other fishermen, Justin Kissoon and Jason Baptiste remain unaccounted for and searches for them by Coast Guard and other fishermen have been called off.
Yesterday Aboud said gunmen have now made their way to the fishing ports of San Fernando and Sea Lots where they intimidate bonafide fishermen into giving up their catches.
“We are getting reports that when fishermen come up to the port in the morning time with their catches, there are gunmen waiting there, they walk onto their vessels, choose what fish they want and take it and walk off and the fishermen cannot do anything,” Aboud said.
Head of the Carli Bay Fishing Association Imtiaz Khan confirmed Aboud’s statement.
He said the gunmen are operating boldly in front of the police.
“If the police are there, they making you hand them the fish like if you giving it away, these guys don’t care how hard the fishermen have to work and people don’t know all that we have to endure to make this living,” Khan said.
Both men called for the TT Coast Guard to implement more patrols in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Paria where fishermen ply their trade.
Earlier this week Minister of Agriculture, Land, and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said “gangsters were posing as fishermen even preventing the opening of one Government-funded fishing depot.
The minister said the incidents underscored the need for a Marine Police Unit.
Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad