San Fernando fishermen are accusing the Government of trying to squeeze them out of King’s Wharf and relocate them to Hatter’s Bay to facilitate the San Fernando Waterfront project.
The fishermen say over 300 fisherfolk use King’s Wharf to fix their nets, bring up their catch and anchor their boats.
They said they are not standing in the way of the city’s development, but want to ensure their livelihoods are not destroyed along the way.
Before elections, the fishermen said they were assured they would not be relocated from the Wharf but this week, they obtained a Certificate of Environmental Clearance which was granted to the government to build a fishing facility at Hatters Bay.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, president of the San Fernando Fishing Cooperative Salim Gool said they felt betrayed.
“We cannot trust this government with their politricks, deceit and lies. How can the EMA grant a CEC to build a fishing facility at Hatters Bay and give the approval to reclaim 3.8 hectares of land from this area, if they do not plan to move us? Why construct the fishing facility at Hatters Bay and not build it here? Look it here, go build it”, he said.
Gool noted that discussions have been held for the past four years and during all discussions, the fisherfolk were assured that they will be included in the waterfront development project.
“I am calling on the Prime Minister to have a meeting and come clean with us. Let them tell us what is their plans,” Gool said.
He also revealed that in an earlier discussion they were told that a sea wall was being built along the coast after the reclamation was done.
“I want to know how fishermen will be able to operate when that wall is built. If you are building a sea wall there and the fishermen stay here, how will fishermen cross that wall? Will they have to build wings on their boats?” Gool asked.
Another executive member of the Cooperative Stephen Taylor said the fishermen had decided they will not move to Hatters Bay because it was unsafe and unsuitable.
“We not going by the cemetery. That is cacatway! We will have to buy machine gun if we going there because it not safe and machine gun is illegal,” Taylor said.
He added, “They could build the fishing facility in Hatters Bay if they want but we are not going there. We staying right here.”
He explained that there was not enough space in that area to accommodate all the fishermen.
“ I feel they want to directly push us out. They want to bring down a bulldozer and mash up this place, barricade it and get us out. This has been where fishermen have been for the past 200 years. When we go down to Hatters Bay, nobody coming down there by the cemetery,” Taylor said.
The fishermen called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to come and meet with them to discuss the new arrangements.
They also said they had lost confidence in their MP Faris Al-Rawi.
In a copy of the CEC obtained by Guardian Media signed by the managing director of the Environmental Management Authority, Hayden Romano approval was granted for the reclamation of 3.8 hectares of land along the waterfront.
The CEC dated May 14 2020 also approved the construction of coastal defence systems from the water taxi terminal in the north to Hatter’s bay at the south, as well as the construction of a fishing facility at Hatter’s bay.”
A WhatsApp message was sent for MP for San Fernando West Faris Al-Rawi asking for clarification as to whether the fishermen will be removed to Hatters Bay. However, up to news time, there was no response.