Sunday 17th February, 2008


Claxton Bay fishermen fear end to mangrove, manatee

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Fishermen gather for a meeting to discuss the destruction of the manatee in the western coasts.


Although they are fast vanishing in the Caribbean, manatees, or sea cows, continue to live in the warm waters of the western coasts between the Point Lisas industrial estate and the Petrotrin jetty.

But with the impending destruction of 75 acres of mangrove to facilitate the extension of the Point Lisas port, fishermen of Claxton Bay believe the manatees will soon be extinct.

During a meeting yesterday, fishermen called on the Government to save the mangrove and instead relocate the proposed port to the Waterloo area.

“We do not want a port here, but if they have to build one, take it more on the Waterloo side,” fisherman Bhadase Sooknanan said.

He said the coast on the western side of Pranz Gardens is shallower and so would cost less for the construction of the port.

“That is why they targeting here. They want to destroy the mangrove, but by doing this, they are killing the spawning ground for the fish and they are killing an abundance of wildlife including our sea cow,” Sooknanan said.

He called on citizens to rally together to save the mangroves.

“Some people in Trinidad have never seen a sea cow in their life, but we have. There are still a few that graze in the shallow water, but if they destroy the mangroves, we will never see the sea cow again,” Sooknanan said.

He said the mangrove was also the home for T&T’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis.

Sooknanan said recently, the ibises were seen on excavated land on the Caroni plains. He said because of the rapid industrialisation on the western coasts, a lot of wildlife have been destroyed.

Physicist and environmental activist Dr Peter Vine was thrown off a barge on Thursday when he joined Claxton Bay residents in protest against building the port. The French-based company Saipen was conducting a survey and soil-testing operations. The port is to be built to facilitate a steel mill by a Essar.

President of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association Kishore Boodhram said citizens seem oblivious to the threat that 75 acres of mangrove will be cleared away from the western coasts.

“Why isn’t this bothering people? What is going to happen to your country when oil and gas run out? We will need to have a fishing industry to survive, but at this rate, we will have to eat dust and steel,” Boodhram said.

Another fisherman Azad Mohammed said sea urchins live in the mangrove. He said the mangrove has a shallow breeding ground.

“This is where the fishes come to lay and hatch. If this part of the mangrove is destroyed, we will never have a fishing industry here again,” Mohammed said.

He said in the past, fishermen could have fished anywhere along the western coats, but now, industries have prohibited fishing on certain part of the coats.

“They are narrowing our fishing zone, when they clear the mangrove, where will we go?” Mohammed questioned.

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