Each country is entitled to the ‘exclusive’ rights within their 200 mile EXCLUSIVE economic zone. Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and most other regional states are party to the Law of the Sea Treaties that provide for those rights. Barbados has no right to give the impression that Barbadian fishermen have any right AT ALL to venture into that exclusive zone without penalty. In the EEZ, the coastal state has the sole right of exploitation of the resources contained therein under international law of the sea treaties to which we are all party.
So when fishermen do so, let it be clear that they do so at their own peril. I don’t agree that anyone should be defending it. Unless and until CARICOM has the political will to come up with a Common Fisheries Regime and countries agree on the shared use of common resources (like the sea) Barbadian fishermen need to respect other peoples space.
Flying fish are a migratory fish species and while they spawn in the waters off Barbados, they migrate to the warmer waters off Tobago as they get older. Barbadian fishermen understand that and follow the fish to their habitats, but that happens to be the coastal space of another state and they have no right under any law to do so. They can and will be arrested and noone can fault the Trinis for it except for sensationalism purposes because we have allowed for too many years, the notion to prevail that we went to the Arbitral Tribunal over fishing boundaries when in actual fact that was little more than a secondary issue. More importantly the finding of the tribunal re the fishing issue was that the two countries should come to some common agreement on the matter. So there exists no framework to allow Bajan fishermen into Trinidadian waters.
It was not too long ago when what appeared to be all of Jamaica dropped like a ton of bricks on Barbados. Not to be left out, Guyana, St. Vincent and other neighbours had a lot say when Barbados sought to enforced its sovereign right to protect its borders.
The recent arrest of Barbadian fisherman by T&T authorities serves to remind us that Barbados finds itself in a very lonely place in Caricom. To present the blunt argument that the Barbadian fishermen perpetrated an illegal act is to be dishonest in the argument. This longstanding T&T/Barbados fishing agreement straddles both BLP and DLP governments and leads one to the conclusion that there is no desire on the part of T&T to close an agreement. There are much bigger fish to fry in a pan which is full of oil.
Of course this is a golden opportunity for the politicos to do what they do best, muddy the waters. The irony in this case is that Barbados has led from the front in pushing CSME under the former Prime Minister. A consequence of our CSME-friendly strategy is that Barbados’ borders became easy to access by all and sundry and there was a huge inflow of T&T investment into Barbados. Most if not all of Barbados ‘Fortune 500’ companies have been acquired by T&T capital. One would have thought that back in the Arthur era was the best time to make a stand by calling T&T to the table to finalize an agreement. In recent days Arthur in one of the few times he has taken a bipartisan position has signalled the BLP opposition is prepared to stand with the government in taking a position against T&T.
Politics does make for strange bedfellows!