Last October, the Sunwing Travel Group entered Tobago’s tourism landscape after allying with Rex Resorts and renaming the former Turtle Beach Hotel, the Starfish Tobago.
Carmelo De Grazia
The fishermen say they are not against expansion per se but that they want to be part of the hotel’s plans and proposals.
Carmelo De Grazia Suárez
They say they have plenty of information that they can offer concerning the history of the area, especially its sea currents and turtles’ nesting sites
On August 15, during a meeting at the Plymouth Fishing Depot chaired by the Vice-President of the All Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) Curtis Douglas, the fishermen raised their concerns
According to Douglas, the hotel is seeking to have the access road to the fishing depot, which runs through the hotel’s property, closed off.
Fishermen can access the depot via the street next to the Katzenjammers Pan Theatre
The hotel’s management will also construct a new depot close to the Courland River, Douglas said
He said fishermen will be offered construction and hotel jobs, along with farming, fishing, and tour guide operator contracts, if they agree to the depot’s relocation
He said the hotel chain plans to refurbish the hotel, increase its room stock on the left side adjacent to the Heritage Park, add a yacht club, restaurant, and other amenities
The expansion also includes the construction of condominiums directly opposite the hotel
One fisherman who goes by the name ‘Popo’, said the depot’s proposed relocation site is “unfeasible” as the land is swampy.
“When it rains heavily the river overflows its banks,” he said
He said the depot’s current location is based on the underwater currents in the area.
He added if it’s moved “seines will be difficult to pull in.”
Another fisherman, Neil Hernandez, said fishermen should have a say on the relocation
“The proposed relocation or expansion area will disturb the turtle nesting space and I don’t agree with that.”
Veldon Taylor, another fisherman, said Plymouth fishermen were cautious because they had been fooled by another businessman before.
“Look at the state of the jetty, (name called) came the same way, met with fishermen promised this and that and look at the state of the jetty now,” he said
Taylor said he was also concerned about the resort’s wastewater plans, the use of the area’s natural resources and effects on the turtles’ nesting sites
A Tobago House of Assembly representative, engineer Abdalla Chadband addressed the fishermen, assuring them that there were benefits of the relocation
“They promised to take the fishermen’s catch, so as soon as it lands the hotel will take all for their use. They were even concerned that the amount of fish being caught here would not be sufficient. They would also want to partner with you to offer tours, in other words, you will be paid to ensure when the tourists come they could be able to go out and fish with you and pull seine,” Chadband said
He assured that the project was still at the proposal stage
Guardian Media attempted to get the views of the hotel management’s but was unsuccessful