Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, commonly referred to as FFOS, is a Non-Governmental Organization engaged in environmental and community activities seeking to protect human life, human health and the environment within Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1996, concerned citizens and fishermen formed a group named “Fishermen and Friends of the North Coast” in an attempt to sensitize the government and the public in Trinidad and Tobago on the environmental issues impacting our Northern Coast and consequently, the fishermen in the area.
FFOS worked together with local fishers to mobilise support and increase awareness of the dangers of improperly regulated shrimp-trawling throughout local communities. Oftentimes members of FFOS travelled to various villages at their expense and interacted with these communities in order to educate the villagers, as well as to gain an understanding of their problems.
Meetings were held with the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs and the Fisheries Division to become part of the decision making processes that affected the regulations regarding fisheries issues. Thereafter, the Ministry formed a stakeholder Committee to address fishery concerns called the Inshore Fisheries Monitoring and Advisory Committee. Fishermen and Friends of the North Coast was invited to join this Committee and participate in deliberations. On January 13th 1997, a paper was presented to that committee entitled “The destruction of our fishing industry, our National Heritage, starvation of our Nationals and the sentencing to a slow and painful death of yet unborn Trinidadians and Tobagonians”. Many of the recommendations of the committee influenced and informed the revised Shrimp Trawling Regulation passed in 1999.
In April 1997, the group decided to change their name to “Fishermen and Friends of the Sea” (FFOS), in order to reflect the broader mandate that consequently emerged.
There was a growing recognition both at a regional and international level of the role and importance on NGOs in environmental governance and decision making. Consequently, in the year 2000, the membership took a decision to incorporate FFOS as a non-profit organisation under the Companies Act 1995. This was in an attempt to put a more formal structure into place that would help to develop a reputation, protect the FFOS name and aid in the many imbalances that existed regarding the representation of local persons in decisions affecting the community.
Over the years, FFOS has widened the scope of its objectives as the overall health of the environment of Trinidad and Tobago was just as significant as the fisheries, and indeed, due to the synergistic nature of environmental problems, inland activities would also impact on the fisheries.
Since its formation in 1996, FFOS has been engaged in advocacy work for projects such as the Toco Port, the Charlotteville Port, the Atlantic LNG Trains I, II, III and IV, the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago expansion project at the Invaders Bay mangrove which involved the clearing of wetlands, the alternative development plans for Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, Forres Park, development in Las Cuevas, Maracas, Sea Lots and the National Energy Corporation Port at Claxton Bay for the Essar Steel Complex and the Alutrint Aluminum Smelter in La Brea.
FFOS is also an ongoing contributor to the Public Sector Reform Initiation Programme Communications and National Dialogue Strategy. The organization, throughout the years, has provided technical and legal assistance and support to a number of communities and organisations on environmental issues.
FFOS has also been instrumental in raising concerns and awareness of environmental issues regarding quarrying and seismic surveys in coastal areas. Additionally, from 1998 to present, FFOS has embarked on educational programmes directed at schools on issues of biological diversity and sustainable development. Members of FFOS have also dedicated much time and effort towards the education of young people on environmental issues. They have lectured at a number of primary and secondary schools, including St. Mary’s College, Bishop Anstey High School, Barataria Junior Secondary School, Las Cuevas Government School and Blanchisseuse Government School.
Today this organization continues to advocate for important matters affecting Trinidad and Tobago’s precious natural resources, ecosystems and people.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea operates with the overall mission of promoting and sustaining development, sound environmental management, accountability, consultation and transparency and community empowerment in Trinidad and Tobago.