Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy Minister Kirk Humphrey today called for better conduct at fish markets while the Government moves to improve their conditions.
The Minister’s comments signal the Government’s intent to overhaul a traditional image of fish markets as havens for loud, raucous conversation, abusive language and even occasional acts of violence.
So far the Government has been attempting to lift the standard of the industry by upgrading markets’ equipment, workspaces and general aesthetics.
Now the people who make their living there
have been put on notice that their behavior must improve while Government works simultaneously to enhance their working conditions.
Humphrey told journalists of a number of “troubling” practices at the country’s fish markets.
While revealing over a million dollars in improvements would be completed by the end of July for fisherfolk operating at Bridgetown, Speightsown and Oistins, he added a code of conduct would soon be enforced as well.
Humphrey said: “We’ve also agreed that as we fix the market, there has to be a code of conduct in the market as well, so that we conduct ourselves in a certain way. There are some practices here that trouble me.”
He said in some cases, new regulations may be needed, but contended that numerous rules already existing also need stiffer enforcement.
Speaking to reporters at the Berinda Cox Fishing Complex at Oistins he said: “As I came in here this morning, I saw a young man smoking a cigarette and you can’t be smoking in the market and there are signs around the market, but people don’t always pay attention to the signs.
“So there are some things that we have to enforce many of the rules that are there and we’re also going to be taking to Cabinet very soon a revision in the Act as it pertains to the market and generally fisheries to make sure that we put into existence some of the things.
“We may also have to do some functional things, because when I first came here they told me when it rains, the winds blows the rain onto them, so we may have to do some functional adjustments to make sure the people are comfortable, but I believe in the short space of time, we have done some functional adjustments to make sure the people are comfortable.
“Every cent that Government puts into the fish markets, Government is willing to explain where it went.”
Almost $200,000 has been spent on the fishing complex in Bridgetown alone, Humphrey said.
He said Government is moving closer to meeting the international standards needed to export its products. This was in keeping with the day’s event centred on the first World Food Safety Day which the Minister marked at the Oistins market in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The FAO presented food safety bouffant caps, boning knives, waterproof heavy duty aprons, rubber boots and other equipment to Minister Humphrey, to be used by fish vendors and others workers in the course of their daily activities.
As Government also moves to raise a food safety and agricultural health standards – known as sanitary and phytosanitary standards to export-ready international grade, the Minister said: “The international standards are more concerned with what is exported. I want international standards even for what is on the local market.
“This [market improvement] is going to help our standards of course and this is a significant part of helping us to meet those phytosanitary standards, especially as it relates to Barbadians, who remain my number one priority.
“At the same time though, we have to look at the complete chain to say that we are now in a position to be able to export and meet those phytosanitary standards.”