Two Vincentian fishermen are happy to be alive after an encounter with 10 “Venezuelan” pirates, who threatened to kill them or take them to the South American nation and demand a ransom.
“I gave up everything, to be honest. That is the last for my life. I thought I was going to dead,” one of the fishermen, Canold Miller, 38, of Barrouallie, told iWitness News on Saturday.
Miller, along with his captain, Cliff Young, aka “Fella” of Clare Valley, –and who operates from Rose Place, Kingstown –said they had the encounter in Vincentian waters some 65 miles south east of Kingstown.
The men were robbed of their money, GPS, fishing equipment, food and water, and a portion of their catch and were then ordered to sail south or be killed, even as the pirate vessel went east.
Miller, who is also known as “Nunks” said they were aboard their 20-foot pirogue, which is outfitted with a single 75hp outboard engine when the incident occurred between 2 and 3 p.m.
He said a 35-foot vessel, which was outfitted with six 75hp outboard engines, approached them.
The wooden vessel was baby blue in colour, with yellow and red trimmings Miller told iWitness News on Saturday.
Young, the captain of the Vincentian fishing boat said that the pirates’ vessel came upon them and four armed men immediately jumped into the fishing boat.
On seeing this, Young jumped overboard, leaving his crew member behind.
“Fright! I never experienced them things they, so I jump,” Young told iWitness News.
“If you go to sea and see them things dey, wha’ you going do? If the man them get gun point to you, what else you going do than jump overboard?”
Young, who has been fishing for over two decades, said it was his first experience with pirates.
He said that as he swam away, one of the pirates shouted, “Come! King fish will bite you!”
“I say, “Ah not coming!” Young told iWitness News.
“My workman tell me, ‘Come, Cap.’ I say like this, ‘I not coming!’”
Young said he heard the racking of a gun, and, fearing that the pirates would shoot him, he swam back to his boat.
One of the pirate immediately grabbed him and began patting him down, looking for money and telling him to stop crying.
“I told him we are poor families, we don’t have no money. Then after, it have one in the boat like he done smoke dope. He jump back in the boat and search the two buckets. Then, one ah de Venezuelan tell him come. After he done search me, them leave.”
Meanwhile, Miller who had the longest encounter with the pirates told iWitness News that they were fair in complexion and spoke to each other in Spanish. One the pirates spoke to the Vincentian fishers in English.
The four men who boarded the fishing boat put him to lie face down.
“I was scared for my life. I beg for my life. They come and stop us [at] gunpoint and take everything from we.
“They circle around us. They have six engines. We have one engine, a 75 and you can’t come round them kinda man dey. Cause yo’ go dead,” Miller said.
He said one of them told him, “Money or life!” and asked him if his family had money.
Miller said he had 35 euros and the men took it from him.
“After that, they say, ‘Your family have money?’ I say, ‘No money.’
“He say, ‘You, we taking you back to Venezuela.’
“I beg them for my life because I had no choice because my next friend start to swim,” he said, referring to the captain, who had jumped overboard.
“I had nothing I could do again. He jump over and start to swim. Leave me alone. Fright! The man swimming for his life,” Miller further said of the captain.
He told iWitness News that in addition to the euro, he had EC$454 in his possession and the pirates took it from him.
He said that the pirates commented that the EC was St. Vincent money and that the euros were in exchange for his life.
“They tell me they going carry me back Venezuela for ransom from my life,” Miller said.
The men took his GPS, his cellular phones, as well as their emergency supply of food and water.
“Everything I had on board. Everything dem tek –the fishing equipment, the bait and stuff like that.
“I plea for my life… and they tell me go south, if I go to land they will kill us. So we run south then run back home and go straight to the Coast Guard base.”
He said that the officers at the Coast Guard base recorded a statement of what had happened.
Speaking of the added risk to fisher folk, Miller said: “Tell me you have your family go to sea and never come back. Fishermen went to sea and never come back. They are killing everybody.
“It’s very hard because fisherman right now, you as a fisherman and you get your family, leave your home like say 5 or 4 o’clock in the morning to go and fishing and you might never get back home.
“Think about how much fisherman go out and never come back home because of the pirates out there; they’re killing us. I thank them for my life, but to be honest, I will like to get my stuff they tek from me.
“What about them fisherman who missing and gone? Dem never get back home. We went to the Coast Guard base; what the Coast Guard did for us? Just a statement and that is it.
“We went to the Fisheries [Department], what the Fisheries do for us? Nothing!
“The Coast Guard not doing enough patrols for us as fishermen. And we life at risk because when you get a boat that get six engines in our waters, what you think they doing? Think about we as fishermen with one 75 horse power – [which costs] $17,000 and change. You see a man with six engines. What you can do to them dey? Nothing. Think about it.
“Ah wah back me GPS and me phone and me money,” Miller told iWitness News.
They were in international waters..being 65 milesSouth East of kingstown..i dont know if the Coast guard has jurisdiction there.
The only security is to fish in groups of vessels especialy with only. One engine .
It is a serious matter that needs to be addressed..how are they so sure they were Venezuelan.?
May be likely due to proximity to that country but can they be sure.was it a flagged vessel .
Anyone that can afford a vessel like that with six engines and that far from home is up to somethingelse..
They were just a target of oppertunity.
In international waters..were they able to radio for help prior to being boarded?
Training. In security at sea needs to be provided to Fishermen and women .
According to UNCLOS II or what is formally the Montego Bay Convention of 1982 to which SVG is a signatory, 65 nautical miles is within a states Exclusive Economic Zone. Therefore the state has sovereign rights where the men were robbed. The state ( represented here by their fisher folk) has the right to explore and exploit the living resources of its EEZ.
What happened to these fishermen is an atrocity and should be taken very seriously by our government and Coast Guard.
Moreover, I employ the Ministry of Agriculture ect to provide education to the general public and more importantly the fishermen about their rights and obligations under UNCLOS II. So Mr Dennie the Fellas were not in international waters….
I am sure the comrade will be horrified that these two Vincentian fishermen have spent time speaking bad of our Venezuelan brothers. It is sheer slanderous how can they talk so about folks who we have promised to help and support and with who we have solidarity.
So if they had been killed or kidnapped, that would have been good? Don’t be ignorant , what is wrong is wrong!!! The fishermen were in our Exclusive Economic Zone in which SVG has Sovereign Rights. What these foreigners did was wrong and should not be tolerated. I suggest that you research the Montego Bay Convention 1982 to understand the gravity of this issue. This has nothing to do with us trying to be humanitarians towards Venezuela.
They only patrol the waters when PM brings in his people. E.G., BUJU BANTAN AND USAIN BOLT.
You are lucky to be alive.
Look at the state of their eyes, if they were fish we would say they not fresh. Are we sure they did not dream this whole episode.
Oh My Thank God u Guys are Safe n Back Home wit ur Families
As for our Coast Guard…. SmH
Just be thankful he is alive. That stuff is replaceable, life is not
I guess the Venezuelans are collecting for Maduro. Election finished and they didn’t get paid for their role in it so now its their turn to collect. Want back your stuff”? Aske Ralph!
I really feel it for those two fishermen and I can only imagine the trauma they must have endured after experiencing such a horrible ordeal. It was in fact, the never ending mercies of God that they’re both alive and well today …which we are all thankful and happy for, though their spirits are broken.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this unfortunate encounter but what preventative measures can the authority implement or put in place to prevent the reoccurring of these terrifying events? It is more than likely – given the circumstances, that there’s little or nothing one might be able to do if they find themselves in such a predicament where your life is basically in the hands of bandits and robbers.
Let’s pray God for the safety of our hard working and brave men and women who traverse treacherous waters far and wide in order to support their families and to meet our demand for this precious source of protein (fish).
Leave it out Thom, they were probably anesthetised at the time.
We’re they in Venezuela territorial waters? Even if they did there is simply no justification in the way they were treated. However, I am happy they were not killed.
They came from a country whose leaders are friends of the Govt of SVG so those fishermen won’t get no justice.Are the coast guards just there for a show,or to patrol our waters ?
They probably have a shipment of soap powder, remember that when people died in a shoot out and afterwards the Venezuelans were just allowed to go home? And it was supposedly over a bag of soap powder disguised as a bag of cocaine.
What is the purpose if foreign affairs and our collection of competent diplomats, not to mention our enviable security council status! We cannot simply leave our fisher folk and our fishing industry up to these prowling sharks. Better must be demanded from the authorities at home.
Let’s see if Ralph will take up this issue with the Venezuelan government. A description of the boat can help to find the culprits. Let’s forget about this jurisdiction SHIT. These are Vincentians lives at risk. It’s time that SVG and ST. Lucia take steps to protect their fisher folks. A small plane can survey the fishing area around both island to ensure their people are safe.
Here is where the NDP can take charge and insist that the government protect its people. This is why the NDP needs an executive committee that can look into issue that affect Vincentians living in the Windward, Leeward side of the island and the Grenadines.
Let’s keep this issue alive, or we may be burying Vincentians killed by pirates, if we find their bodies.
Phil Dennie, it would be better if you’d said nothing. Piracy is a serious thing and it appears that those fishermen are being taken for granted. The Coast Guard and the Minister of National Security need to say something to alleviate the fears that those folks are having. Their lives and their livelihood ought not to be slighted. Mr Prime Minister, what sayest thou? We depend on these folks for our fishes. Put something in place and do it ASAP
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