Over one hundred fisherfolks enhanced their safety at sea in Tobago through ICT Training

A large group of over 115 fisherfolk, officials from the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries (DMRF); the Occupational Safety and Health Department, the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) and representatives from fisherfolk association participated in and benefited from Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training sessions held recently in Tobago.

The training sessions involved the use of three ICT devices most important to safety at sea for small scale fishers: the handheld marine band Very High Frequency (VHF) radio, the handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and the cellphone. The preliminary assessment of uptake of these devices shows that although some fishers may own VHF radios, GPS units and cellphones, the current adoption and understanding of how to use these devices, in particular during emergency situations at sea, needs improvement in Tobago.

The training was funded by the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean fisheries sector project (CC4FISH) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and facilitated by the Caribbean ICT Research Programme (CIRP) of The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago and the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries in Tobago.

Dr Kim Mallalieu, Coordinator of CIRP, facilitated the workshop and presented to workshop participants on the instrumental, technical and procedures on VHF radio, existing provisions for communications at sea for small-scale fisherfolk in Tobago against international recommendations and licensing requirements for VHF radios. During the workshop, participants engaged in meaningful discussion on operational VHF use with critical institutions such as the coast guard, provided a number of useful recommendations moving forward and were also able to perform practical radio procedures to demonstrate calls of urgency and distress using wording that aligns with international standards. Participants were also able to receive a practical overview of the use of GPS and cellphones.

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A noteworthy recommendation which was proposed by the workshop group was for the development of an “Emergency Communication Plan for Small-Scale Fisheries in Tobago” which can also be scaled to the national and regional level. The participants who attended the training indicated that the information shared was quite useful and thanked CIRP’s team, the FAO and the DMRF for the valuable insight they received.

This view was exemplified by Mr Terrence Holmes, Fisheries Extension Officer within the DMRF, who stated “the excellent workshop you delivered for the stakeholders of Tobago was truly enlightening and actually brings to the fore the need for continuous training of this nature”.

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A group of 29 fisherfolk, staff of the DMRF and representatives of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, also engaged in a practical ICT Safety Triangle Exercise at Milford Bay Tobago which was facilitated by CIRP’s team. Fishers were able perform various VHF radio procedures (with the use of GPS) which included radio checks and distress calls at sea on a pirogue vessel. Following the ICT at sea exercise, fishers who were part of the surrounding community of Milford Bay, were also able to participate in a discussion on the smart use GPS and cellphone at sea to improve their safety. That GPS and cellphone activity was conducted in the form of classroom session at the Milford by fishing facility.

The final three days of CIRPs ICT training activities in Tobago involved visiting several fish landing sites across the island. The purpose of the visits was to have discussions with fishers present in those areas on the use of the three ICT devices of importance to increase their safety sea but with particular focus on GPS and cellphones. Fish landing sites which were visited included those found within the villages of Castara, Parlatuvier, Plymouth, Turtle Beach, Charlotteville, Belle Garden, Roxborough, Scarborough and Lambeau.

Dr Iris Monnereau, Regional Project Coordinator of the CC4FISH Project stated, “Fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and coupled with the expected impacts on climate change such as the increased number of high intensity hurricanes, improving fisher’s safety-at-sea is increasingly important. CC4FISH is supporting CIRP and the national entities to carry out a large number of these ICT trainings for fishers this year and the coming year, not only in Trinidad and Tobago but also in Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines”. The ICT training supports the increased collaboration between fishers, fisherfolk associations, government entities and other organizations to reduce the number of fatalities and accidents which involve fishers and improve overall safety at sea.

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