There seems to be some ease in tension between local fisherfolk and their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago.
And promising to continue to protect the interests of Barbadians in the context of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey said discussions were still ongoing in relation to a revision of the fishing protocol between the two states.
The issue of Barbadians being arrested or their vessels being detained for fishing in Trinidad and Tobago’s waters as they go in search of the dwindling flying fish stock has been a sore point for fisherfolk and authorities here for some time.
Following the signing of an agreement in 2014, officials from Port-of-Spain and Bridgetown were expected to conduct a review and put a new protocol in place.
Asked for an update on the matter, Humphrey told Barbados TODAY research and discussions were still ongoing, but fishermen recently told him that tensions had eased somewhat.
“Like the Prime Minister has said, and we have spoken on this matter, we will never yell across the ocean with anybody else. Those conversations are continuing and they will continue,” said Humphrey.
“If you speak to some of the fishermen now, and I sat on a boat a few weeks ago and a fisherman explained to me that when they go to Tobago many times the Tobagonian fishermen welcome them . . . and that he doesn’t feel the level of tension between themselves and Trinidad as it stands,” he added.
Humphrey said: “Beyond fishing, the Caribbean has to find a way to work together better, but we will always work to protect the interests of Barbadians. So we hope to bring resolution to that.”
Also providing an update on the management of the menacing sargassum seaweed, Humphrey told Barbados TODAY the management plan was progressing smoothly and efforts would be ramped up in the coming months given that Government had recently acquired a sea harvester that would be on island “soon”.
“We will have that here in a few months, and depending on how it works, we may decide to get another one. And we have also got a conveyor belt and a grabber that would allow us to remove the seaweed directly off the sea,” he said.
“We want to be able to convert the seaweed into something else and we have been talking to scientists and different people at different universities about what we are going to be doing there. So we are happy to say that we have a sargassum plan,” he said.
Looking back at his one year in office, the Minister said he was satisfied that he has been able to accomplish a number of things including the introduction of a ban on plastics and styrofoam.
Cabinet has also approved the plans for the building of berths and jetties at various points around the island for a ferry or water taxi system and the improvement of fishing markets across the country.
Humphrey also pointed out that plans were on stream for the development of islands off the north, south-west and south-east coasts.
“We have started work on the islands. We have already identified three locations potentially for the island,” he said.
It was on the campaign trail that Prime Minister Mia Mottley said her administration would pursue the creation of a small number of islands and peninsulas off the west and south coasts of Barbados, by “reclaiming 3000 acres of land over the next decade”.
Humphrey told Barbados TODAY: “We will be guided on the science on the first instance and the economic feasibility on the second.”
Government is expected to first carry out an environmental scoping study to determine the feasibility and to also do a social impact study.
Policy and legislative action would also be required to ensure that Barbadians maintain “freehold of this new land space” while providing long commercial leases to those invested.