Bajan and Tobago fishermen to discuss long standing dispute

Keith Rowley and Mia Motley

A team of Barbadian fishermen could soon be headed to Tobago for discussions on fishing, with the expectation this could lead to the end of a years-old fishing dispute.

At least, that is the hope of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who believes representatives of the two groups should hold talks on investment opportunities.

She was clear that any arrangement should not be about the governments in the respective states but rather on a people-to-people level.

“I also agree that we need to root our citizens in the investment framework for the future. That is going to mean that they can exercise their rights to establish businesses in Tobago and to be able to move from Tobago with Tobagonians also coming in to Barbados,” Mottley said.

“That is what the CSME is about. Whether the fish are below the line or above the line ought not, therefore, to matter because we have joint enterprises in both countries that can benefit from it.”

Mottley made the comments after holding discussions with an eight-member delegation from Trinidad and Tobago headed by that country’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

The Barbadian leader is the lead Prime Minister on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

She has herself come under fire from officials in Trinidad for comments on the disputed issue when she served as Attorney General under a previous administration.

While there have been no incidents in recent years, Barbadians have, in the past, been arrested for fishing illegally in Trinidad and Tobago’s territorial waters.

A fisheries agreement between the two countries expired about 13 years ago.

“Our future really lies in being able to create industrial-like entities within the fishing sector without having the Japanese and the Koreans and others who come into to our waters doing exactly what Tobagonians, Trinidadians and Bajans should be doing together and exporting to the same markets,” Mottley said.

Pointing to Suriname, she said that country exports more than 38 million tonnes of fish to Europe yearly.

“We are really just making mock sport in the southern Caribbean. What lies ahead of us is that promise but it requires our business people. Governments don’t trade, individuals do, companies do.

Prime Minister Rowley said it was possible for the two countries to reach agreement on the issue of fishing.

“We are discussing cooperation from the point of view of participation, sharing product in the marketplace and also investment in the industry,” he disclosed.

“[If] We can find ways to cooperate in such a way that there are benefits to be had by all with both the local market receiving the product and the international market, it could be attractive to investors from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.” (CW)