What began as a promising season for fisherfolk at the Bridgetown fish market has become a season of despair.
Like their counterparts in the north, fishermen and vendors in the capital are facing forced abstinence of sorts, due to a scarcity of fish.
Added to their concerns is the fact that they have to share what little is available with the vendors from the north.
Therefore, the fisherfolk say they are hoping for an Easter miracle that will result in a rise in their catch.
“We are hoping for the best, even a miracle,” Richard Small, an outspoken vendor told Barbados TODAY Thursday morning.
“I would like it to be as plentiful as when it first started out so that everyone can make a dollar. Some people come on a morning and don’t get no work so they have to go back home. That’s a payday you don’t get.”
It was not the best of days for Small and his fellow hawkers, who were anxious for a sale.
When Barbados TODAY visited Thursday morning, the market was mostly quiet, apart from the occasional hawker shouting out fish prices to a mostly non-existent customer.
Many vented their frustration at the scarcity, which was severely affecting their pockets during the Lenten season.
“The season start out good but right now it’s a little hard because fish drop back,” Small said. “Flying fish was selling at $60 [for a hundred] now it’s back up to $110. It’s too hard for the people that have to come and buy them. I don’t know if there will be a good Holy Thursday. I don’t know if it has to do with the climate or something out there in the water, [but] it’s hard. I don’t think things will get better by Easter because at this rate and this price it can’t get any better and everything will go up. Fish will go up from $15 a bag to $25 a pack.”
Earlier this week, vendors in the north had told Barbados TODAY that because of the shortage of fish, they were forced to travel to Bridgetown for supplies in a bid to satisfy their customers.
As it turned out, things are hardly any better in The City, where the fisherfolk said they empathized with their northern counterparts, but they were not prepared to sacrifice their livelihoods for them.
“When the ones from the north come up sometimes there’s none, so they have to go long back. We up here aren’t going to give them and then we do without. I see a lot of them came yesterday and [flying fish was being sold] at $110 and a lot went back down without because the price was too high. If they buy at that price they will have to sell them at $25 to $30 a bag. That would be too hard, no one is going to buy them,” Small said.
Fisherman Julian Agard knows that “things fluctuate” during the Lenten season, but this is a particularly difficult year.
In fact, Agard said it has been one of the roughest he has ever experienced.
“Things are a bit poor. Usually around this time things fluctuate, but now it’s very poor. So far it don’t look like it’s going to be a good season. All like now people have fish put up but we only have a few flying fish. Big fish is very scarce,” he said.
Still, the little that he has is not selling at any rapid rate because the scarcity has forced prices up to levels that customers seem unwilling to pay, he said.
“There isn’t that much fish to buy anyway. The boats have to go out about 100 miles and more to get fish, and some days we go out and don’t get any. It’s hard right now, but hopefully it picks back up,” he added.
Like many of the vendors in Bridgetown, the season started out well for Martha Moise.
However, as Lent works its way towards Easter, her effort at making a living has become a form of penance. And she hopes the catch will rise again come Easter.
“Things aren’t too good right now at all. There was a little earthquake in the sea so the fish would go back out. After Easter it will pick up, but the Lord works in mysterious ways. Last year it was the same thing, it picked up after Easter,” Moise told Barbados TODAY.
In the spirit of self-sacrifice that is part of the season of Lent, Moise said while it was hard having to share the already limited fish with vendors from the north, “everyone has to eat”.
“Those from the north come to buy too, and everyone has to live. It’s a little bit of fish but they have to get,” she said.
Another vendor, Ruth Bramble, also looks forward to an Easter resurrection, clinging on to hope of better things to come.
“I’m not really getting much sales. The fish drop back right now, you may get or you may not, but we have to hope for the best. Some days you get three or four boats, other days you get just one. Sometimes the north people would get some, other times they get none at all, so they go back down empty handed,” Bramble said.