Fishermen: Vendors exploiting us

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 07:45

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