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Heritage Petroleum says it is not responsible for the oil spill which contaminated 20 boats anchored on the Fullarton Beach in Cedros on Friday.

The company despatched clean-up crews to collect the oil even as the fishermen demanded compensation for damages.

In a statement, Heritage Petroleum said fishermen reported small intermittent patches of crude oil being visible along the Fullerton Village Beach.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the source of the oil has not yet been attributed to any particular operator, Heritage Petroleum Company Limited, as the major oil producer on the West Coast of Trinidad and a conscientious corporate citizen, has voluntarily responded to reduce any impact this may have on the environment and the community.”

The company said investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the oil. The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industry has been informed and is on-site with Heritage incident management personnel.

Treasurer of the Fullarton Fishing Association Sherwin Lawrence said too often fishermen face losses without compensation.

“Right now we are afraid to go out there because we do not know what we will meet. If we go out at sea and meet up oil, it will affect our nets and that will be a great loss,” he said.

He said over 20 fishermen could not go out to fish on Friday morning after floating chunks of oil-contaminated their anchor ropes and boats.

Fisherman Rakesh Ramdass said he woke up before dawn and when he went to float his boat he was horrified to see the oil on the shore.

“This is really frustrating. We do not know where the oil is coming from but we are losing a day of work,” he said.

Councillor for the area Shankar Teelucksingh said there was a possibility that the oil could have been washed down because of heavy rains and floods from the higher Guapo regions. He also called on the authorities to investigate the source of the oil.

Meanwhile, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud said the oil spill was deadly to the eco-system and perpetrators must be penalised.

Saying the oil has been floating for the past week in the vicinity of the Trinmar fields.

“The fishermen have complained that the volume of oil and damage to their boats and nets is getting worse. The Cedros fishermen have been complaining but no one has come to their rescue,” Aboud said.

He called on the Energy Minister and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to treat the oil spill as a national emergency.

“This oil spill is affecting the fishermen boats, nets and more importantly its working its way into our marine food chain. Seventy per cent of our locally produced fish comes from the Gulf of Paria,” he added.

Aboud said the authorities must act with haste and activate the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to locate the source and contain this oil spill.

“Since 2015 there have been over 377 reported oil spills and none of the culprits has been fined or convicted! Will the culprits responsible for this oil spill be identified or charged? This is not a laughing matter, oil is deadly. Every drop of hydrocarbon has an everlasting impact on our fishery,” Aboud said.