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As an environmental scientist I have come to regard Trinidad and Tobago’s natural gas and oil reserves as both a blessing and a curse. While there is no doubt oil and gas brings value to our economy, the deleterious impacts of this unsustainable energy sector are both blatant as well as latent in T&T.

The oil spills that began on December 17th 2013 off Point-a-Pierre, while terrible, present an incredible opportunity for us as citizens of T&T, to wake up and smell the hydrocarbons!

They are toxic and they are deadly.

People in the vicinity of the spill are still suffering from lung infections, tones of fish and marine birds are still being destroyed by the remnants of toxic chemical dispersants sprayed on the sea, and several fishing communities are still struggling to maintain their livelihoods, whilst our country watches on and points fingers.

On Wednesday 2nd April 2014, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea together with the President of the Cocorite Fisherfolk Association, met with members of the media to display an assortment of dead fish and birds, collected from La Brea earlier this week; and to read a public announcement that “fish caught off the North, East and South Coasts were expected to be safe”. That it was not advisable to catch, buy or eat “bottom dwelling fish from the Gulf of Paria”.

A wealthy shrimp trawler who was invited to join the press conference, pled his case that those statements read by FFOS “were not proven facts” that it remained to be proven that Corexit (a highly toxic chemical used to disperse oil) “was the true culprit in the case of the dead animals” on display.

So while we await the proof on which fish is safe to eat, here in Trinidad, one wise option is to go vegan or just eat chicken. This takes away the guess work in the million dollar question “Which fish is safe to eat in Trinidad?”

As a mother, an environmental scientist, and a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, I have to tell you that the argument of the lone very well dressed, obviously very misguided and money-hungry shrimp-trawler was met with my complete & utter disgust. I feel it is about high time that people familiarize themselves with the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle states in the absence of sound scientific information, ere on the side of caution. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm. If fisher’s livelihoods are being damaged by the news that fish are toxic, they should not retaliate at the messengers, those innocent environmental NGOs that are trying thanklessly and selflessly to spread awareness in T&T. Rather fishers ought to report to their nearest fisher-folk organization representative and take it up with the Corporate Social Responsibility personnel at Petrotrin.