Pirate Panic

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

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