Loads extra flying fish within the sea? Tobago’s fears as Bajan boats transfer in

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Loads extra flying fish within the sea? Tobago’s fears as Bajan boats transfer in

Andel Daniel has been fishing in Trinidad and Tobago’s territorial waters for greater than 30 years. Throughout that point, he has seen a big drop within the variety of flying fish inside his patch of the Caribbean Sea.

Cleansing his catch on the quayside of Buccoo after an early morning fishing journey, he blames the scarcity on fishing boats from Barbados and Venezuela shifting into Tobago’s waters.

“What one Bajan boat can carry, it will take 10 Tobago boats to hold,” says Daniel, utilizing the Caribbean time period for Barbadians as he warns of what he considers their unsustainable practices.

Andel Daniel cleans his catch at Buccoo. ‘Our fishing practices in Tobago are sustainable and don’t kill the fishing grounds,’ he says. {Photograph}: Jewel Fraser

“Barbadian fishers freeze their catch whereas at sea and return to Barbados solely when they’re full,” he says, referring to the flying fish season from November to July. “Our fishing practices in Tobago are sustainable and don’t kill the fishing grounds.”

Complaints from Daniel and others like him are more and more frequent in Trinidad and Tobago and have fuelled a dispute that has endured for greater than 50 years. Within the Seventies, the 2 international locations started negotiating agreements on oil and gasoline exploitation and their respective territorial waters and unique financial zones (EEZ), which prolong farther.

In 1982, each grew to become signatories to the United Nations conference on the regulation of the ocean. Nonetheless, tensions between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago over fishing areas endured till the events signed a Fishing Settlement in 1990

This restricted the variety of boats authorised to fish in Tobago’s territorial waters, and set a most variety of journeys in any fishing season and a payment for every boat. Nonetheless, Barbados then refused to resume the settlement after its first 12 months because it didn’t align with its pursuits.

Within the 2000s, the issues over fishing between the two international locations intensified when the migratory patterns of flying fish started to alter – probably as a result of local weather disaster elevating water temperatures, in keeping with researchers.

The shoals of flying fish, which was plentiful within the seas round Barbados, started to maneuver a whole lot of miles southwards, getting into Tobago’s waters.

As they’ve lengthy made a dwelling from flying fish, Barbadian boats started to observe the shoals, encroaching on Tobago’s sovereignty and clashing with locals who had been after the identical catch.

As flying fish are additionally sometimes used to catch bigger pelagic species – reminiscent of king mackerel, marlin and tuna – the drop within the variety of flying fish resulted in fewer of the bigger, extra profitable species being landed, which additionally affected the earnings of Tobago’s fishing communities.

A small fish with wing-like pectoral fins gliding above the water
Flying fish are a Caribbean delicacy however one fast-food chain in Trinidad and Tobago stopped serving them in 2005 when provides grew to become extra irregular. {Photograph}: WaterFrame/Alamy

The dispute was introduced earlier than the courtroom of arbitration in The Hague in 2004, which rejected the Barbados authorities’s argument that it ought to have entry to Trinidad and Tobago’s waters as its boats had all the time fished off Tobago and restricted Barbadians’ rights there.

However the issue has not gone away. Since November, it has been mentioned between the authorities and representatives of fishing associations from the 2 international locations after the All Tobago Fisherfolk Affiliation (ATFA) protested at what it noticed as a rise in Barbadian fishing in Tobago’s waters.

Farley Augustine, the chief secretary of the Tobago Home of Meeting, or
head of the island’s authorities, describes the decades-long standoff over fishing as a household feud that would escalate if not resolved.

The prows of moored small boats with a harbour wall and a big sign saying ‘I (heart-sign) Buccoo’
Fishing boats tied up in entrance of an ‘I Love Buccoo’ signal. Tobagonian fishing historically relied on handheld traces, whereas Barbadian boats use nets. {Photograph}: Nandani Bridglal/Alamy

“Tooth and tongue will conflict as a result of they’re family dwelling in the identical home,” says Augustine, utilizing a Caribbean metaphor. “That’s a pure a part of the dynamic. It simply occurs as a result of we’re a household.”

In addition to the query of Tobago’s sovereignty over its territorial waters, the problem additionally includes the sustainability of fishing within the Caribbean.

Fisheries officers from the 2 international locations met in November to debate the issue and have put collectively a proposal to gather knowledge in an effort to search out out why the flying fish inhabitants has fallen.

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The study was agreed by Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, and Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, Keith Rowley, after a meeting of the Caribbean Community, the regional single-market bloc, at which Tobago’s fishers voiced their concerns over Barbadians’ fishing practices.

At the Caricom meeting, ATFA expressed its willingness to “share” the flying fish with their Barbadian counterparts, Augustine says, as long as it is “done responsibly”.

“Fishing is not a free-for-all, and so Bajan fishers must come in a responsible manner to fish,” he says.

Two men talk at the wheel of a small boat with other boats riding at anchor in the background
Tobago’s small boats have no means of storing fish, unlike the bigger ‘ice boats’ used in Barbados, so the catch must be landed after each day’s fishing. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty

ATFA is an umbrella organisation representing eight fishing groups in Tobago. It has about 1,000 members, according to its president, Curtis Douglas, including part- and full-time fishers, vendors, small-scale processors and others along the value chain.

The comparative size of the fishing enterprises in Tobago and Barbados is adding to the dispute. Whereas Tobago fishers use small boats known as pirogues and fish for a day, the Barbadian vessels in Tobago’s waters – known as “ice boats” – are bigger, capable of going farther out to sea and remaining there for much longer as they can preserve the catch.

A middle-aged moustachioed black man looks at the camera
‘We do not know what is the percentage of fish that is landed in Barbados. We need to know the data,’ says ATFA’s Junior Quashie. Photograph: Jewel Fraser

ATFA’s vice-president, Junior Quashie, says Tobago’s fishers are not against Bajans operating in Tobago’s EEZ. “We talk, they assist us, we assist them,” he says, referring to emergencies at sea and meetings onshore when they socialise. However, he insists that their methods “are not sustainable”.

“After a heavy flock of Bajans, we cannot fish as we would like because their boats are larger, and they fish night and day while we only fish in the day. In night fishing, the light attracts all of the flying fish [to their boats],” Quashie says.

He says the Bajans have a tendency to make use of 10-12 metre (30-40ft) hanging nets, whereas Tobago fishers depend on handheld traces, including that they sometimes work in pairs and sometimes return to the harbour by early afternoon, having gone to sea at daybreak.

“We have no idea what’s the proportion of fish that’s landed in Barbados,” Quashie says. “We have to know the info, and it’s donkey’s years that now we have been asking.”

Augustine says the brand new research will assist to make clear whether or not the perceived decline in flying fish populations is because of overfishing or the local weather disaster. The oil and gasoline business, which is essential to Trinidad and Tobago’s economic system, has additionally been thought of as a potential trigger.

The Guardian approached Barbadian officers and the Barbados Nationwide Union of Fisherfolk Organisation however acquired no response to requests for an interview. Shelly-Ann Cox, the chief fisheries officer for Barbados, additionally declined to remark.

A man guts mackerel-sized fish at a counter
A employee guts flying fish in Bridgetown. Barbados’s argument that its boats had fished off Tobago for generations was rejected by a courtroom in 2004. {Photograph}: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

The decline in flying fish populations additionally hurts downstream companies, says Douglas. Quick-food retailers reminiscent of KFC and Royal Fort, a Trinidad and Tobago-based chain, not carry it on their menus due to its unsure provide, leading to hardship for some processors.

Sandy Roopchand, managing director of Royal Fort, says the chain’s flying-fish sandwich was discontinued in 2005 as provides couldn’t be assured.

Augustine argues that freedom of motion for all Caricom nationals, established underneath the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas, doesn’t imply Barbados’s fishers can exploit Tobago’s waters.

Whereas the treaty provides Caricom nationals the liberty to work in each other’s international locations, it doesn’t imply “exploiting one another’s assets”, Augustine argues.

“If it did, that might imply Barbados may begin drilling for oil in Trinidad, and Trinidadian farmers may go to Guyana and work their land,” he says.

The Tobagonian chief hopes an settlement will be reached, based mostly on the lately introduced research, that can permit Barbadians to fish underneath licence, because it was in 1990.


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