Missing doors, rusty hinges, badly damaged surfaces and overall substandard conditions have come to characterize Barbados’ fishing facilities, but Government is promising to leave no stone unturned in lifting the standard of the sector.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey has promised that, in the coming weeks, fish markets across the country will receive much-needed upgrades, and derelict vessels in boatyards will be discarded.
Operations at the Berinda Cox Fish Market came to a halt early yesterday morning as Minister Humphrey, Member of Parliament for the Christ Church South constituency Ralph Thorne, and fisheries officials toured the facility.
“The Oistins market is in many ways similar to all the other markets in terms of the state of disrepair that it is in. If you were to visit any of our markets, you would see the manifestation of a lack of care given to the market in the last ten years, and to me it is a sad reflection of the way people were treated,” Humphrey said.
“I have already given the MP our commitment that as soon as the new financial year begins in April, our major project in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs will be to rectify most of the things you’ve seen in relation to the Oistins market.”
Acknowledging that falling phytosanitary standards continued to prevent export of local fish, Humphrey assured Barbadians that new legislation would tremendously improve the overall standard of the industry.
“Barbadians have always been above the global standard and it’s only in the very recent past that standards have fallen below the global standard. I feel as though we have to excel and reach Barbadian standards, which would push us way beyond the international standard,” he said.
In the boatyard next to the fish market in Oistins, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs removed several boats that had been abandoned for years, and notice was served that others would suffer the same fate if their owners failed to take action.
“This [the boatyard] was actually a place where you could not stand just a few weeks ago because of the many derelict boats . . . . When we came here a few weeks ago and we saw the state of the market, one of the things that we said urgently had to be done in this boatyard was to move those derelict boats, and I am pleased to announce that a number of the derelict boats have been moved—I think almost ten have been moved so far,” said Minister Humphrey.
While Government’s firm stance is likely to upset some, Humphrey stressed that no malice was intended.
“It’s not about trying to make somebody’s life difficult or trying to stop a man from making a living. But the truth is that if your boat has been out of the water for a number of years, then you’re not really using the boat to make a living,” he said, adding that the Government stood ready and willing to assist with the removal of boats for repairs.
“ . . . To occupy a space that could be used functionally and productively by somebody else is just wrong. So we have started moving the boats and we will continue to move the boats. I am hopeful that all of these boats with notices on them will either be moved to another location or that we are in a position to help the owner in some form or fashion to repair some of those boats,” the Minister added.
Humphrey also advised boat owners against attempting to trick the system by pretending to be repairing boats which they had no intention of returning to the ocean.
“That is not fair and it’s too easy to see through. I want the boating industry to come alive again and we do no justice to one another if we try to trick one another. I’ve been very honest and I’ve been very fair and I think the officials at the Ministry have been very fair. I think that the people who own boats and who have left boats need to be fair to their fellow colleagues in the industry,” he said.
Humphrey finally assured Barbadians: “As you move around Barbados, you will see from boatyard to boatyard and from market to market a gradual improvement in the state of affairs.”