The state of the Millie Ifill Fish Market at Weston, St James has raised a stink that has finally received Ministerial attention.
The market was given a failing grade at the end of an extensive tour this morning by a team of senior Government officials led by Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey and MP for the area [St James North], Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson.
But Humphrey also ruled out closing down the market, explaining that the fisherfolk and staff have agreed to stick it out while the Government works to fix the market.
“It’s not really a place from which we should be trading fish in the 21st Century, and Barbados now has to come up to par with the rest of the world,” Humphrey told reporters in the presence of president of the Weston Fisherfolk Association Chelston Thomas, market superintendent Nicole Morris and area fisherfolk.
Based on his first-hand observations and complaints from the fisherfolk, Humphrey went on to describe the situation at the Weston Market as way below par.
“If you look at the facilities that are available to the persons who are in the fisherfolk association here, there are way below standard. In fact, they are way below standards for anybody. If you look at the conditions with which the persons who sell fish actually ply their trade . . . . There are lots of broken tiles, water pressure is low – that is a haven for bacteria and other problems. You have a problem sometimes with flies,” he said.
A shortage of staff and a lack of appropriate material with which to work were some of the other concerns expressed by the fisherfolk.
But the Minister left the fisherfolk with the promise of a solution.
The Government would provide them with either a renovated facility or construction of a new one to be completed within the next year, he declared.
Senior officers within his ministry will follow through on a draft plan which had been left dormant during the past ten years by the former Freundel Stuart administration, said Humphrey, a first-time MP who defeated Stuart in the St Michael South riding in the May 24th general election.
“We propose, and I believe it would be accepted, that there will be some help from the Government, but also some outside assistance to renovate this market. We have already started doing work on Pile Bay. We will be very soon be doing some work also at the Bridgetown Market. So these markets are under consideration,” he stated.
“I have seen the [draft] plan. I do know the fisherfolk quarters where the lockers are falling apart, where the roof is falling apart, I know that we would have to fix that. It looks to me like we may have to remove the entire building and build a new building. I know in here for example, we have to raise the roof. I see the rails where they have to wash down the tables . . . where the rail is now is falling apart . . . actually a threat as it stands. I know we have to fix that. We [also] have to fix the office,” the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy stressed, adding that the aluminium countertops for the fish markets were essential in a modern facility.
A water tank to help counter the low water pressure when ice is to be made is also in the pipeline, he added.
Those were the long-term plans, said the Minister.
But Humphrey assured that immediate to short-term measures will include the replacement of a make-shift covering in a section of the market.
He also noted that the recent decision of the Government to embark on the removal of all derelict boats from the shores would soon reach Weston.
Humphrey described as close to embarrassing, the fact that Barbados now imports more than 80 per cent of the fish it consumes, noting that this must change by making Barbados the model fishing industry in the region.
MP Edmund Hinkson welcomed the intervention of the blue economy Minister to address the concerns of the fisherfolk in Weston.
He noted the fishing industry contributes significantly to the country’s economic development.
“A lot of people probably don’t realize the impact on our economy that the fishing industry has. The 6,000 persons have a direct link in terms of employment, self-employment and otherwise within the fishing industry . . . fishermen, people working in the various six or seven fishing facilities throughout Barbados,” he noted.
He argued that when this was multiplied by three to four times the number of people in a household, it shows some 25,000 people depend on the fortunes of the island’s fisheries.