In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s destructive onslaught in Dominica, local fisherfolk have been virtually left at sea with their fishing gear ruined and at least 40 per cent of their vessels, either lost or badly damaged.
Across the seas, their plight has not gone unnoticed by their Barbadian counterparts.
In a show of brotherly support, the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organizations (BARNUFO) sent six local fishing boats, fuelled by the Food and Agricultural Organization and manned by local fishermen, with hundreds of boxes of food, equipment and supplies, including 720 boxes of medical supplies from Global Medic, to support the ailing fishing sector, its workers and other Dominican citizens.
According to President of BARNUFO Vernel Nicholls, “One of our primary interests is to take care of the needs of our sector. We know that when there is a disaster, in most cases, because of the fragility of the fishing industry, fisherfolk are the ones who are most affected. Barbadian fisherfolk are always ready to reach out and assist and this was just one of those times.”
Barbadians generously donated to the initiative which was also supported by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
Fisheries, combined with forestry and agriculture contribute 15 per cent to Dominica’s GDP, and the sector exported over one million pounds of fish to overseas markets in 2016. The industry employs approximately 2800 individuals, comprising about 11 per cent of the labour force.
Regional Project Coordinator of The Climate Change Adaptation of the Fisheries Sector Project (CC4FISH) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Barbados Dr Iris Monnerau said, “Hurricane Maria has caused significant devastation to the fisheries sector in Dominica. This BARNUFO initiative is so heart warming, as it speaks to the strong sense of kinship among regional fisherfolk. The Climate Change Adaptation of the Fisheries Sector Project (CC4FISH) project was thrilled to help with the fuel to make this south-south collaboration possible.”
Dr Monnerau and her team will be headed to Dominica in a few days, to collaborate with local authorities in carrying out a post-disaster needs assessment of the fisheries sector, in order to support rebuilding of the fisheries sector as quickly as possible.
Local fisherman Jerome Brathwaite, who was on one of the Dominica-bound fishing vessels said, “It means a lot to me to help my Dominican brothers and sisters. Today it is them, but tomorrow it could be us.”