President Praised for Fish Grant
I applaud President Ali forn his announcement Tuesdayb at Windsor Forest committing a grant of $150,000 tob“fisherfolk”. It is a welcome
relief to help strugglingb fisherfolk and their families who could barely make ends meet. I consistently called for such assistance in my missives to the press after learning about their pains in the fishing industry. The President listens to the public and act when required.
Over the last few years, I spent considerable amount of time interacting with fisherfolk (fishermen, workers on the boats, vendors in vans and at stalls, cleaners, helpers, clerks, etc.) at the wharf at Meadow Bank, West Coast, Berbice, and Top Side on the Corentyne and at markets in Georgetown, Parika,Port Mourant, Skeldon, and other locations. The boatmen, vendors, and cleaners at Meadow Bank and West Coast know me well. I treated them kindly with various ‘gifts’. They willingly revealed their challenges to me. I never encountered politicians interacting with fisherfolk although fisherfolk at West Coast, East Coast, West Berbice, and Top Side said Minister Zulfikar Mustapha engaged them and committed to looking into their complaints of low catch. I salute President Ali for interacting with them at Windsor Forest to hear their stories. The victims of the fishing industry manifestly deserve assistance every bit as much as those suffering in the sugar industry and in other sectors of the economy.
For the last couple years, fisherfolks complained about low catch. The complaints increased at each subsequent visit suggesting conditions
worsened. The loss of incomeas a result of low catch has been traumatic and affect everyone tied to the fishing industry. I am not a government officer and I have no influence to redress complaints. Every- where I went, especially Meadow Bank on the East Bank, vendors and cleaners cried, “Things bad, leff something nah doc, buy something form me, nah brother”, was heard repeatedly. Indeed, in all of my visits, I observed ever declining fish availability on the boats, vans, and at the stalls. Some of the captains of the boats said they returned virtually empty with
the sales of their catch below costs of diesel for their trip, not to mention paying for labor and time. Correspondingly, with the scarcity of fish, price of fish increased. In my interactions with them, fishermen complained that catch was low and the vendors fretted that their limited sales were getting smaller and smaller with time. “Fish scarce! Fish nah dey”, they repeatedly said. Prices were shooting through the roof, going up steadily after every visit. Last week, prices for varied fish at Meadow Bank and elsewhere was double that from six months ago.
Banga, for example, was $120 a pound late last year and $250 now. Butter was $200 a pound last year and is in excess of $400 now. Cleaners cried the most saying they can’t make ends meet from their morning work. Last year and earlier, they could earn over $20,000 for a few hours of work on a typical morning cleaning fish that was plentiful in supply. Now, they can’t get $10,000. Some are lucky to make $5,000 and some don’t even get that amount. “Doc, Wuk, nah dey”, they said everywhere. Several cleaning tables or stalls have folded up. The number of vendors at Meadow Bank and other wharves and at markets have declined. The number of boats going out for fishing have also declined. Hundreds if not thousands of boats were parked up at Parika and other points on the West Coast, Essequibo Coast, Berbice, and on the Corentyne. Fishermen said the proceeds of the low amount of catch can’t cover their costs for the fishing trip. They seek financial help. The announcement by the President of a financial grant is most welcomed. This relief is long overdue and would help fisherfolk. The cost may be high but it is for a deserving cause and worth every dollar.
The President deserves praise for this initiative. The media has not stated who qualifies for the grant. Everyone connected to the finishing industry (fishermen, sellers or vendors, wholesalers, retailers, cleaners, stores, etc.) has been hurting over the last couple years (as a result of the Covid lockdown, flooding, high fuel costs, and other factors). Consideration President Praised for… should be given to giving grants to all bona fide
fisherfolk (perhaps not the same amount to all – for example, cleaners shouldn’t get the same amount as vendors who shouldn’t get the same amount as fishermen who should not get the same amount as the boat owners, etc.). Those out of work should definitely get the grant. The boat owners and fishing companies should get a much larger grant. They have been suffering badly with decreased revenues over the last few years. Separately, government should upgrade the wharf and facilities on the coast for boat- ing – improved lighting and availability of cold storage for the catch.