Barbados’ first-ever minister for the blue economy wants the fish trade to take on a more professional colour, from the state of markets to the behaviour of the folk who work there.
And Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, has announced a plan to spruce up fish markets and improve how vendors conduct themselves there.
Fisherfolk and boat owners heard his ideas in a Meet-the-Minister forum at the Bridgetown Fisheries Division last Saturday.
Many of the changes include training and upgrades to the minimum international food safety standards required for market operation.
“There will be a number of changes to the legislation as to who can sell fish and the [necessary] criteria. There will also be criteria for who can work the boats. We have to implement a serious training programme if we expect to meet international standards,” Humphrey indicated.
The changes were critical, the minister said, as Government worked towards ensuring that Barbados’ fishing industry rose to the pinnacle of the region over the next decade.
“I am not suggesting that anybody has to go back to school. Even at the University there is PLA – Prior Learning Assessment – whereby if you do something for a long time the right way, that contributes towards a qualification, that would allow you to continue,” he said.
On improving conditions of fish markets, Humphrey mentioned the Bridgetown Port, which has inadequate facilities to accommodate the present volume of boats, and the nation’s overall boat hauling capacity.
A Government statement on the Meet-the-Minister session noted the concerns of boat owners who have claimed the new fuel tax was hurting their operations.
Humphrey “reminded those present that Barbados was not operating in ‘normal times’, and therefore everyone needed to contribute to the development of the country,” the statement said, adding that the Minister promised to convey the boaters’ concerns to Cabinet.
The Minister also said he planned to hold monthly talks with the fishing industry in a bid to improve standards, the Government said.
The statement said the meeting also discussed improving technology on boats, the re-establishment of the Fisheries Advisory Committee, and the state of the island’s coral reefs, which are vital nurseries for fish. (BGIS)