Giselle Thompson at Fishing Workshop 2018


October 3rd 2018

Good morning,
On behalf of BPTT, I am extremely honoured to welcome you to this ground breaking workshop on the sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries.  Approximately one year ago we committed to hosting a workshop that would bring all the key players in fishing together to address both the challenges and the opportunities within the industry.  Today we are happy to deliver on our commitment.  It is our hope that today we can all come together in the spirit of partnership to take that deep dive into the fishing industry of Trinidad and Tobago, and I stress partnership since all of us here today have a role to play in the sustainability of our local fisheries and marine environment.  

The reality is that changes are coming to the local fishing industry and I dear say this change can be positive if we all work together and all share in bringing about these changes.  This workshop will open more efficient avenues of participation for all the key stakeholders represented here today.  It emphasizes that a balanced and integrative approach must underpin the development of the national policy on fisheries management.  Indeed, we believe that the multi-sectoral approach at work today is central to the success of any national policy.

Sustainable fisheries management is based on the premise that our fisheries must be managed in a co-ordinated way that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising future needs.  While we continue to support the livelihood of fisher folk and other users of the sea, our actions must at the same time improve our food and economic security. 

 Ultimately, the resources of the sea must be shared in a manner that preserves our ecosystem and balances competing interests within the national interest. This is the context of today’s workshop.  As a responsible company BPTT has over the years partnered with fisher folk in South/East Trinidad.  The existence of our 14 platforms in the coastal waters of Mayaro mandated the development of a unique partnership which has withstood the test of periodic rough waters over the years.  While our investments have promoted the growth and development of the industry in Mayaro and prompted best practices in safety, some problems still persist.  Since some of these problems are outside of our remit and affect fisher-folk everywhere, there is a need to broaden the conversation and have all stakeholders be part of the solution.  

The presenters and participants here today, comprise an impressive array of industry professionals, university academics, representatives from government ministries and agencies, civil society,  upstream energy partners, international organisations and the fishing community, who are central to all discussions.  The coverage is extensive.  Under the broad topic of Sustainable Fisheries Management for example, one presentation will be made by Dr. Mark Tupper of the UTT who has some seminal writings on the topic.  He has noted that offshore oil and gas production is one of the key influences on fisheries management in Trinidad.  Now, I am not sure why that sparked my interest!  However, we know that the impact of seismic activity by energy companies on fishing communities has been a sharp bone of contention at times.  Presentations and the ensuing discussion on legislation, mapping of fishing grounds and of course, national compensation could put us on a trajectory towards permanent solutions.  

A healthy participatory democracy is a strong requirement to promote sustainable development.  This is evidenced by the large number of civil society organisations and real opportunities for them to play a responsible part in environmental policy.  BPTT has invested heavily in a NGO/CBO Training Progamme in Mayaro for many years.  I am therefore especially pleased to see one of our community groups, the Guayaguayare Ortoire Mayaro Fishing Association carded to present on the Current State of Fishing Infrastructure in Trinidad and Tobago.  In the same vein I look forward to a Tobago perspective from the All Tobago Fishers Association.  These groups with their hands on perspective from the ground will enrich our perspective and provide the basis for the important action that will ensue from this workshop.

In the past fisher-folk have complained vehemently about inadequate security on the high seas during focus groups.  The inclusion of the Coast Guard and an interactive session on Hazard, Safety, Security and Protection is apt.  I anticipate animated discussions here.

Earlier I alluded to the presence of representatives from key government agencies and ministries.  There is of course a critical role for government in guiding the policy which addresses sustainable fisheries management.  This necessarily involves securing the national interest and laying a foundation for long term food security and economic growth.  I specially commend and recognise the presence of Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries.  Welcome Minister.  I consider your presence as indicative of your support and look forward to your remarks this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen permit me to reiterate the objectives of this workshop as I close.  It will provide an effective channel for contributions from all stakeholders including fisher-folk, the energy sector, academics and researchers and government agencies on the national policy for sustainable fisheries management.  

It is our hope that, positions and solutions on key issues affecting fisher-folk, energy operators and other users of the sea will be conceptualized and that beyond our discussions today we keep the dialogue open and push forward with implementable solutions. We are pleased to continue investing in the people of Trinidad and Tobago and in processes that spur national development.  Have a fruitful and productive workshop!

Good morning.