Fishermen want round-the-clock patrols, coast guard hotline


A 24/7 sea patrol coupled with a direct hotline to the coast guard, were two suggestions by fishermen to reduce incidents of piracy and other criminal acts in the Gulf of Paria.

Independent Fishing Union of TT president, Robert Sagramsingh, in a telephone interview on Sunday, also said a committee involving fishermen and security personnel was formed at a meeting at the Orange Valley wholesale fish market in Couva on Saturday.

Sagramsingh said almost three weeks after the July 22 attacks on several fishing vessels, which resulted in the deaths of five men and the disappearance of two others, fishermen were still scared about venturing out into the Gulf of Paria.

“They feel threatened and vulnerable at this point. You have to police the sea like how you police the land, so one suggestion we made is to put a naval vessel between Cedros to Chaguaramas, then you cover a vast area. And once you have two smaller vessels or one smaller vessel with that bigger vessel, you can search or patrol a wider area.

“And for this, we need government’s help and we need funding to get the job done. In other words, the coast guard needs to have the boats. It come like policing out there.”He said they also want an emergency hotline to the Coast Guard instead of what presently exists.”A direct emergency (line) where you can call.

This is not (for) an accident or a minor situation, this is where people’s lives are at risk and there is nothing in place really…something like dial-a-coast guard. But it reach a stage where the fishermen have to fend for and protect themselves as much as they could.”

Asked whether he was satisfied with the meeting, he said, “Well I’m satisfied with the police aspect of it. They came out and they did what they could have done. They even have somebody on the committee, but what we have is offshore problems and police cannot solve these problems.

Their hands are tied.”He said the Government should focus on the development of the nation’s food security with the fishing industry as an important aspect of that program.”Instead of building highways, focus on what needs to be done now and that is food security. We are not against development, but there is a time and place for everything and food is a necessity.”