by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
Over the years, fisherfolk have been able to file for their fuel rebate at the end of the year, an initiative by government through the Customs & Excise Division to provide much-needed relief assistance for the fisheries sector. This initiative allows fisherfolk to reclaim $1.50 per gallon of gasoline and $3 per gallon of diesel.
However, the fishermen say apart from them not receiving their fuel rebate this year, many of their fuel receipt claims have been denied by the Fisheries Division — amounting to hundreds of dollars they are now unable to reclaim.
Esley Sanderson is among those fisherfolk at the Grenville fish market. Added to their mounting woes, the fishermen are claiming that the Fisheries Division has now made it even more difficult by stipulating that their fishing vessel must pass inspection before receiving their fuel rebate.
This new requirement, Sanderson said is not backed by the Fisheries regulation.
“This money comes out of your pocket to buy fuel, then we have bills inside for a long while so the expense we have to stand by ourselves.”
Another major concern, Sanderson said is the ever-changing and unrealistic expectation by the fisheries division regarding the requirements needed in order to pass inspection. Sanderson shared the concern that fisherfolk are now required to have onboard handheld signal flares as opposed to the regular flare guns normally used.
He said this change resulted from the use of flare guns by non-fishermen to stage robberies in the parish in recent times, but although Sanderson understands the rationale behind the ban, he says this now poses a new challenge for fishermen.
Sanderson went on to explain that it will be difficult to be spotted with handheld signal flare when lost at sea, as opposed to flare guns which can be seen at a further distance.
“I bring my flare gun; they said they don’t want that and when I ask them why they don’t want this type of flare, they said that men going and stick up people with flare guns, but I don’t believe fishermen will do that, but the flare gun that shoots in the air gives a better signal.”
Fisherman Lyndon Marrast said on average he would have to spend between $300-$500 on fuel per trip whenever he ventures out at sea to fish. He hopes that relevant authority looks into what has caused the delay in payment this year.
“We used to get that twice a year, now we not even getting it once a year…every fisherman is down right now quarrelling about it because it is a problem.”
Danny Allard has added his voice calling for the matter to be investigated. “That gas rebate is a problem for fishermen in Grenville. It is taking too long to get that gas rebate… we normally send the bills to get back a little money to help repair our boat.”
The concerns of the fisherfolk of Grenville were related to Crafton Isaac, Chief Fisheries Officer within the Fisheries Division.
Via email, Isaac responded that: “Normally all claims for fuel rebates would have been honoured by November. However, this year we are experiencing some problems with respect to the processing of some of the claims (not only fishermen of Grenville are affected by this, but islandwide). We at the division have been working assiduously to rectify these problems and I’m happy to report that we have almost completed the process, and a number of rebate claims have been deposited with the Ministry of Finance for payment in early January next year.”
He also stated that boats must be registered and licenced in order to qualify for fuel rebate.
Issac indicated that presently, the Caribbean and ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries are under a lot of pressure from developed countries in the WTO (World Trade Organsiation) to remove these subsidies because (they claim) subsidies lead to overfishing and the destruction of fish stocks.
The Chief Fisheries Officer also suggested that fishermen should be considering making strong representation to the government to protect the subsidies that they receive from the government such as the fuel rebate and concessions (on boats, fishing gear, safety items, boat building materials, paint, etc).
According to the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Fisheries Act No. 15 of 1986 provides for
- Conditions of fishing licences
(1) Every fishing licence shall be in the prescribed form and shall be subject—
(a) to such general conditions as may be prescribed;
(b) to such other conditions as may be specified under subsection (2) or (3).
(2) The Minister may, by Order, specify general conditions additional to those prescribed to which all fishing licences or any category of fishing licences shall be subject including conditions relating to close seasons, prohibited fishing areas, minimum mesh sizes and minimum species sizes.
(3) The Chief Fisheries Officer or, in the case of a foreign fishing licence, the Minister may attach to any fishing licence such special conditions as he or she thinks fit.
(4) The Chief Fisheries Officer or, in the case of a foreign fishing licence, the Minister may vary any of the special conditions attached to a fishing licence where he or she is satisfied that it is expedient for the proper management of fisheries in the fishery waters.
(5) Where the Minister or the Chief Fisheries Officer varies any of the special conditions attached to a fishing licence he or she shall notify the licence holder of such variation as soon as practicable.
According to the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Fisheries (Fishing Vessels Safety) Regulations provide for
(1) Every vessel shall at all times carry on board the following items—
(a) a bailer capable of removing water from the vessel;
(b) a hand-held or other compass;
(c) not less than 5 gallons of fresh drinking water for each person on board the vessel, stowed in a closed container;
(d) not less than five gallons of reserve fuel for any motor on board the vessel, stowed in a closed container separate from the tank feeding fuel to the motor;
(e) a battery-powered water-proof flashlight;
(f) non-perishable rations sufficient to sustain two persons, for at least five days, stowed in a water-proof container;
(g) a small glass mirror capable of being used as a light reflector;
(h) at least two flares suitable for use at night;
(i) at least two flares suitable for use in daylight;
(j) a sea anchor of a size and design appropriate to the vessel.
(2) In addition to the items specified in regulation 4(1)—
(a) every vessel whose length overall is 28 feet or less shall at all times carry on board a pair of oars of a length appropriate to the vessel;
(b) every vessel whose length overall is 28 feet or more shall—
(i) be fitted with a bilge pump,
(ii) at all times carry on board or in tow a life raft or dinghy capable of carrying all persons on board the vessel together with a pair of oars or a motor;
(c) every vessel whose length overall is 28 feet or more shall be fitted with—
(i) a V.H.F. radio capable of receiving and transmitting messages,
(ii) port and starboard lights.
(3) Each item of equipment required by this Regulation to be carried on board or fitted to a vessel shall at all times be maintained in good working order.