Mangroves have been cleared and a mysterious floating wooden jetty built across prized fish nesting grounds in the Gulf of Paria has appeared.
Fishermen from the Claxton Bay port say the jetty is attracting party-goers and is upsetting the seagrass beds and fish nurseries flourishing on the western coast near Sandy Point Bay.
Guardian Media took a boat ride to the site and saw evidence of the mangrove destruction. Heaps of white and black mangrove plants had been chopped down and bagged in garbage bags. The floating jetty was well constructed using blue plastic drums, wooden planks and tyres.
The jetty led to a small sandy verge where a popular soca artiste reportedly holds private fetes.
However, Vice President of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association said they were clueless as to the owner of the jetty.
He explained that a party boat had been frequenting the area, adding that litter and debris are often left behind.
For years Sooknanan said they have been fighting to save the dwindling sprawling grounds near Sandy Point Bay from pollution.
"Someone has been quietly putting down this jetty and we want the Environmental Management Authority and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to investigate now. We want to know who gave the authorisation to build that jetty there," he said. Saying the mangroves supported rich biodiversity,
Sooknanan said they wanted the Institute of Marine Affairs and the EMA to remove the jetty immediately and ban the party boat from frequenting the beach.
"We will not stand back and allow them to destroy our mangrove," Sooknanan vowed.
He said the seabed grass nurseries were inhabited with shrimp, crabs and an abundance of fishes including carite, mouette, cutlassfish, redfish and salmon. During the boat ride, schools of baby fishes were seen jumping up and down upstream alongside the boat.
Sooknanan noted that over 100 fishermen depend on the nurseries to supply them with an abundant catch. Despite the presence of pirates, Sooknanan said many of them still managed to make a decent catch even though they venture no further than a quarter-mile from shore.
Another fisherman Azard Lalla said if the nursery was destroyed, fish stocks will be further depleted.
"We want an investigation into this. We cannot allow this to happen," he added.
Fisherman Daniel Eversley said the loud music from the p[arty boat and the debris left behind chases away the fishes from the spawning grounds.
"We want the EMA to investigate this because no one should be allowed to build a jetty from the coast to the sea without getting permission," he added.
Kimchand Appoo said the jetty has destroyed some of their nets adding that in most cases when this happens they cannot any competition.
Contacted for comment, managing director of the EMA Hayden Romano said before any jetty is built an application for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance should be4 sought. he said he will investigate the matter to determine whether any such application was made.
He noted that permission will also have to be sought from the Commissioner of State Lands and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Minister Clarence Rambharat said he will investigate the matter.
- by Radhica De Silva. Photos by Ivan Toolsie.