By Devina Samaroo
Fear of thievery is one of the main reasons why the Government has banned fishermen from using the Hope Canal area, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has said.
Approximately 40 fishermen dock their boats at the conservancy to guard against the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean but the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has instructed them to moor their vessels elsewhere.
Minister Holder, in response to questions posed by Opposition Parliamentarian Nigel Dharamlall in the National Assembly Thursday, said there is $43.7 million worth of “moveable items” at the eight-door Relief Sluices at Hope.
The Minister said, “the passage of fishermen and perhaps persons of questionable character, at varying hours during the night, has caused a security nightmare at the site.”
Holder said the Ministry of Agriculture is not prepared to expose the site and its valuable items to “any pilfering”. The items which the Minister fears are stolen include generators, solar systems, winches, and motors.
Several days ago, News Room spoke with a few of the fishermen who pleaded with the Government to allow them to continue using the area since it is a secured location. The fishermen said they are even willing to pay a landing fee but Minister Holder told the National Assembly that the issue is “non-negotiable”.
He posited that the fishermen have to dock their boats at the Hope Drainage Outfall Channel which is some 300 miles away.
“They were operating for a number of years quite happily at the Hope Drainage Outfall and therefore there is no need for them to move now at this point in time. We need to secure government property,” the Minister said.
But the fishermen argued that their vessels are exposed to theft and destructive waves when they are moored there. That is why since the Relief Sluices area was constructed sometime in 2015, there is a steady migration of the fishermen.