“We have to continue to educate our fishermen and also convince our government to take action to stop harmful practices.”
Azard Mohammed, Founder and President of the Blue River, Bamboo, Cunupia Fishing Association
Across the Caribbean, depleted fisheries, lack of equipment, poor security and limited state help have rendered fishing a precarious livelihood. Fisherfolk typically have little or no involvement in regional and national fisheries governance and management, and food insecurity is a wide-spread problem.
Under programmes being developed by CANARI with EU funding, Azard and others like him have reason to be more hopeful for their futures.
"I am being real with you right now; across Trinidad, you would be hard pressed to find many fisherman who do this job full time. It is not sustainable right now. If we depend on fishing alone, we will have nothing to put on the table at the end of the day – but we keep on fighting."
Azard Mohammed is the Founder and President of the Blue River, Bamboo, Cunupia Fishing Association or the BBC as it is more commonly called. He has been a fisherman for his entire adult life – some 40 years – but depleted fisheries, limited help from the State, inadequate facilities and poor security have threatened his livelihood.
"When we came here (to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary where the landing site is now located) there was nothing but bush here. We found discarded telephone/electric poles, chopped them up and brought them here to create the foundation. That effort alone took about three weeks. Then, we used the Association's money to buy additional wood and put the roof together, then I, together with some of the members and including our wives, built the site. We built it in one day."
"It is all we have right now," says Azard. "We would like to do more for the members, but we need help."
Through CANARI, Azard has the opportunity to participate in meetings and conferences where he represents his organization, shares his views, challenges and experiences and learns best practices. Most recently, he attended the 2nd World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress in Merida, Mexico. He is careful to share what he has learned with other members of the Association and use the knowledge gained to work more effectively on their behalf.
But Azard is anxious to do even more.
"We recently applied to the Fisherfolk Strengthening Fund. We want to do training with the members – especially the younger ones to boost their skills as fishermen. We want to teach computer literacy and marketing; we want them to gain skills in engine and net repair, and teach about sustainable fishing practices."
"Many times people ask me why I bother, why work so hard for no reward, but we have to think about the future. We have to be concerned about the fish stock being depleted and we have to continue to educate our fishermen and also convince our government to take action to stop those harmful practices."