The ban against fishermen utilising the Hope Relief Canal to moor their boats is “non-negotiable.”
This is according to Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder during Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, after he was probed by Opposition Member, Nigel Dharamlall as to what measures his Ministry has put in place to ensure that the fishermen can adequately ply their trade.
Holder told the House that the fishermen who had been mooring their vessels at the Hope Relief Canal had not sought permission, and nor were they granted approval to do so.
He recalled that for the past decades, the fishermen had been mooring their boats at the Hope Drainage Canal Outlet Chanel.
“After the construction of the eight door relief sluice at Hope, this was commissioned in 2015, some fishermen from the Hope drainage outfall started to moor their vessels at the Hope Relief Outfall Chanel,” he explained.
Holder said that the migration began in early 2017 and has been steadily increasing.
He explained that there have been many challenges faced as a result of the fishermen mooring their boats at the relief canal, various hours of the day and night- since they [fishermen] work with the tide.
“The passage of fishermen, and who knows, perhaps other persons of questionable character at varying hours during the night has caused a security nightmare at the site and has resulted in numerous confrontations and threats between the site security and the fishermen,” he told the National Assembly.
Further, the House heard that the site holds valuables including generators, wenches and motors, among others, which hold an accumulated cost of $43.7M.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is reluctant to expose the site and its valuables to any to fish trader,” he asserted.
Moreover, in response to a question posed by Dharamlall as to whether the gates leading to the canal will be opened for the vehicles of the fish traders, Holder said that from the time that the Hope Relief Sluice was constructed, there was always a gate at the beginning of the road, near the East Coast Public Road.
However, since the gate has been relocated, a fence has also been added so as to prevent vehicles from “continuing to traverse the high level dam” as he claims that this could result in a breach, which could prove to cause severe flooding in the Anns Grove village among other nearby areas.
The affected fishermen had pleaded with Government for the decision to be reviewed, noting that their only reason for utilising the canal is to harbour their boats and save the vessels from incurring losses when out at sea during inclement weather conditions.
“One of the boats that we does get here is around $7 million with everything (equipment). When you put it in the channel and it turn over and break up. What will happen to we?” on of the affected fishermen who spoke to this media group had explained. (Ramona Luthi)