A $35 million fish landing facility, built for Guayaguayare fishermen in 2012, remains unoccupied and underutilised because of poor design and construction.
When the tide comes in, the force of the waves from the Atlantic Ocean cascades into the facility making it impossible for the fishermen to use. They cannot dock at the port either because the harbour was not dredged properly to facilitate landing and the pier is eight feet higher than their pirogues.
Completed in 2012 at a cost of US$5 million as part of the Port of Galeota Phase 1 Project, the National Energy Corporation (NEC) built the fish landing facility to provide the fishing community of Mayaro and Guayaguayare with a space to carry out fishing-related activities including boat and net repair.
Equipped with fuel, water, ice and cold-storage as well as 25 lockers, washrooms and parking space, the facility is still guarded by security officers on a 24-hour basis even though it is of no use to the fishermen for whom it was built.
In an interview, fisherman Malcolm Lindsay said the fishermen have been unable to dock at the facility because the pier is too high and the force of the waves batters their boats.
Lindsay said the fishermen have no choice but to move their fish landing site a few metres away from where they do not have the comfort of proper lights, clean running water, cold storage for their catch or lockers to store their engines.
“It is really disgusting to know that so much money has been spent and all we can do is watch the port and wish it was better built,” Lindsay said. He noted that there were over 3,000 fishermen in the villages of Ortoire, Grand Lagoon, Church Road, Stone Bright, Plaisance and Guayaguayare, yet there was only one gas station in the Mayaro area.
“We already facing real problems because we cannot afford gas and now we cannot even get gas for our boats because all of us fishermen have to fight up with regular motorists to get gas. They are killing fishing in these villages,” Lindsay said.
He noted that fishermen were being exploited by fish vendors who pay minimal prices for fish because of the lack of cold storage facilities.
Carol Ravello, one of the few fisherwomen in the area, said if there were cold storage facilities, the fishermen could store their fish and get a reasonable price. However, because they were afraid that the fish could spoil in their hands, Ravello said the fishermen often sell their catch cheaply.
“Sometimes we don’t get back the money we put in for fishing. Sometimes they pay us $1 for bonito and $10 a pound for carite and they sell carite and king fish back to customers for $25 and $30 a pound. It’s really unfair,” Ravello said. She also noted that bonito could be processed into pet food and burgers rather than being wasted on the beach.
Another fisherman Kir Guy said there were many oil companies in Guayaguayare yet nobody has offered assistance to them. He called for better floodlights in the area where they now dock, as well as a return to regular gas. Guy also said a businessman from the area was selling the ice from the fish landing site which fishermen had no access to.
When contacted, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said the facility was officially handed to his ministry in 2017. He said after hearing about the fishermen’s complaints he provided lighting and washroom facilities to the fishermen. However, he said it will cost a further $15 million to reconfigure the facility.
Asked whether the contractor was penalised for building the facility which was now useless to fishermen, Rambharat said no.
“The contractor is not at fault because he built it according to the designs given. Fishermen have never used the facility because the pier is too high. When you pull up to the pier they supposed to be able to step off the boat onto the pier but they can’t because the boat is eight feet below the pier. The waves are too rough for boats to come in,” he explained.
He added that the ministry is looking at ways to remedy the problem.
“It requires a lot of redesign and expenditure. In the interim, I have improved the area by putting in lights, washroom facilities and they could access the existing port if they want to use the lockers or to get ice,” Rambharat said.
He advised the fishermen to speak to their fisheries officer if they have any more problems.
-by Radhica De Silva. Photo by