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EDITORIAL: Securing our cou-cou and flying fish

luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Securing our cou-cou and flying fish

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TODAY, ten Barbadian men will face a Trinidadian court charged with illegal fishing in the waters of Tobago; and will probably pay a price – unless understanding, compromise and diplomacy prevail.
It has been some time now since we were last in this uncomfortable state. So much so, we may have been lulled into a sense of false security – a false feeling of resolution.
The hard cold facts are we are nowhere nearer a fishing agreement between our neighbouring Trinidad and ourselves than we were prior to Mr Denis Kellman’s appointment as CARICOM?Ambassador. And we anticipate the challenge will be no less herculean with our new Ambassador Bobby Morris, with all the expert skill of negotiating the retired trade unionist will take with him.
On assumption as leader of Trinidad, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar had promised, though with no great zeal, that negotiations would come to some mutual benefit. Barbadian fishermen looked forward to a measure of accommodation in waters Trinidad claims as its own – warmer waters for which our national icon the flying fish head.
In the absence of any serious dialogue and agreement on fishing rights or accommodation between these two CARICOM neighbours, our Barbadian fishermen should steer far from the claimed territorial waters of Trinidad and Tobago, making ample allowances for strong tides.
It is not to be forgotten that the ruling of a tribunal, convened under the United Nations Convention On The Law Of The Sea, was pursued by us in February 2004 on these fishing rights over which we have been wrangling for years.
At the centre of it all has been the flying fish, consequent of which there has been a tension that has obviously not eased. 
The tribunal unanimously found, among other points, that “Trinidad and Tobago are under duty to agree upon the measures necessary to coordinate and ensure the conservation and development of flying fish stock, and to negotiate in good faith and conclude an agreement that will accord fisherfolk of Barbados access to fisheries within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Trinidad and Tobago, subject to the limitations and conditions of that agreement and to the right and duty of Trinidad and Tobago to conserve and manage the living resources of waters within its jurisdiction”.
Central to Barbados’ argument was the importance of the flying fish to its history, culture and economy. Barbados maintained that its fishermen had harvested flying fish off the coast of Tobago from as early as the 17th century.
Trinidad and Tobago countered, and continues to, that such a claim of Barbadians have fished off the coast of Tobago for centuries is fictional – at best, mythical. And with both Trinidad and Barbados seeing victory in the tribunal’s decision, nothing has since really stirred.
Maybe the time has come for Barbadians to have Trinidadian representatives legally contracted to fish for them. Maybe!