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Tough penalties in draft Fisheries Bill

Published: 
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

By month end, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat will take to Cabinet a draft fisheries bill, which in its final stage, can see fishermen facing significant fines and penalties for trawling in sensitive areas of the sea bed.

Rambharat spoke to reporters yesterday, following the opening ceremony of the Fisheries Value Chain Management Workshop at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre.

Admitting that there are things in the draft bill he does not fully agree with, Rambharat said he intends to take the bill to Cabinet to get his colleagues’ views “since it contained some international and regional agreements,” fines, penalties and compulsory measures that will be imposed on fishermen.

The Fisheries Division started work on the bill in 1992 with support from the European Union (EU), and accelerated in 2015, when the EU gave T&T a yellow card because of legislative deficiencies in management of its fishing stock.

There are about 200 clauses in the draft compared to the nine clauses in the present legislation.

Rambharat said his ministry will hold three consultations next month to get feedback from stakeholders and the fishing community. Coming out of these consultations, changes will be made to the draft, following which Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi will be asked to take it to Legislative Review Committee.

The minister said there are no legislative provision for fishing vessels to be registered to carry monitoring devices. The vessel monitoring system is the subject of a pilot project and is going to be mandatory, he said. Compulsory registration of vessels will allow the ministry to enforce the law.

“To me the most important thing is being able to enforce. It is very difficult to operate in an environment where there is no legislative basis for you to take action. Once you have a mandatory requirement there are going to be penalties for not complying . . . and one of the penalties will be de-registration of the vessel.”

Rambharat said the legislation will give the ministry greater power to deal with trawlers that operate in sensitive breeding grounds.

“From what I have seen so far we are pitching the fines at international standards. It’s substantial. There are some things you want to have corrective behaviour over a period of time. Some of the things we want to make sure that people never do. It’s time to act on it.”

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