by Emmanuel Joseph
Efforts are underway by some fisherfolk in Barbados to stage a protest to try to force government into putting into operation, a new crane loader which has been “sitting” idle at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex for the past six to seven years.
This was disclosed this afternoon by boat owner Hallam Mayers while speaking to reporters at the Berinda Cox Fish Market at Oistins, Christ Church, during a Rubbing Shoulders tour by Opposition Leader, Mia Mottley and a team of her colleagues.
Mayers, who started in the fishing industry 47 years ago, said he was trying to get “the men together” to demonstrate against the government in order to get the crane brought to Oistins. He said that piece of machinery which is allocated to Oistins, was critical for use in removing boats from the water when a storm was approaching the island. He noted that if boat owners had to rent a crane to get a vessel out of the water and transported to dry land to and from Bridgetown, it would cost $2,400 both ways.
“We need the loader at Oistins in case of a hurricane,” he added. Mayers said other efforts to try to bring their vessels into safe habour, “would mash up the boats.” However, that was just one of a myriad number of problems fisherfolk at Oistins – and other markets are experiencing. A random survey of a wide cross section of vendors, cleaners and processors revealed that the main problems they were facing included a lack of proper security, inadequate lighting, the absence of chemicals to clean the fish stalls, poor toilet facilities, stalls in state of disrepair, unsatisfactory system of fish waste collection, inconsistent functioning of the ice machine and the presence of sand and heat in the fish processing area.
“One of the main problems we having right now is with the bathrooms, where we got men going into the women bathroom. Also we have problems with the stalls… as you can see some of the tiles and the doors come off already and the moss building up on them,” reported fish vendor Wilma Hutchinson.
“The tiles,” Hutchinson added,”need changing. We have a lot of problems down in the back with the fish processing hall. Also we have problems with the ice-making machine breaking down constantly.”
She said there are also challenges where people “just walking into the market. We have a lot of derelict people sleeping all about the market which shouldn’t be; where yuh come in ‘pon a morning, and sometimes when yuh come … in the corner of the stall, yuh smelling like a strong stench of urine and stuff like that,” the fish vendor declared.
Hutchinson believes all these matters needed to be addressed. She suggested that authorities employ additional security guards since the one on staff could not adequately police the entire complex. “One night guard can’t police the entire market. Yuh need better security and better lighting, cause going down through the fish processing hall, lighting down there is very bad at night,” she reported.
Hutchinson also argued that taxi operators virtually “held those vendors who drove vehicles “hostage”.
She told Barbados TODAY they “block out everybody on Friday nights and curse you if you ask them to move, inspite of efforts by the senior staff of the market and even the police.
Fish vendors Lucille Clarke and Eleanor Griffith, with a total of 105 years in the industry, agreed that the absence of chemicals to clean the market and the breaking down of the ice-making machine, were some of the main problems at Oistins.
“The market and stalls want fixing and cleaning. We complain and they (management) say they aint got nuh broomes to scrub with and nothing to scrub with; all sorts uh things,” added Griffith.
“They say they ain’t got nuh soap; they just does wash down with bare water and then ‘bout hey lather in bare flies. We have to buy our own chemicals; we have to buy Clorox,” she told this newspaper.
“For me, I would like the stalls repaired,” Clarke, who been a vendor for 60 years, continued. Inside the fish processing hall, the mother and daughter team of Andrea and Elizabeth Nicholls was among a group of another employees speaking out against the conditions under which they have to work.
“The sand and the heat killing you. The sand blows through the mesh wire and the door and settles on the counters where we work. The fans don’t do anything,” complained the Huchinsons as they pointed to the sand on the counters and the ceiling fans which spinning at a relatively slow speed. “They out to all,” Elizabeth noted. Elaine Blackman also showed the Barbados TODAY team, a crack in the wall of the processing hall.
Opposition MPs Gline Clarke and Kerrie Symmonds, who were part of the Rubbing Shoulders contingent, echoed the need for government to pay more attention to the fishing industry, and to modernise the market at Oistins so the island could export to Europe.
Clarke suggested a reduction in VAT in order for the sector to survive and Symmonds believes government should create the environment for young people to make boat building and repairs, a career. [email protected]