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Fish a rarity this season, fisherfolk say

by Anesta Henry
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Barbadians who wish to add fish to their Christmas menu will have limited choices this year as fisherfolk at the Oistins and Bridgetown markets report a scarcity.

Vendors told Barbados TODAY that for the past three weeks, they have been turning away customers seeking, particularly dolphin and flying fish as fishermen return after days at sea, in some instances, with limited fish on board vessels.

One vendor pointed out that some customers have been complaining that $35 for a pack of ten flying fish is too costly, while others are making it clear that they will not be buying dolphin at $14 per pound.

However, veteran vendor Ricardo Layne explained that fisherfolk have no choice but to sell their fish at those prices. “Right now we have to buy dolphin at $10 and $12 per pound and 100 flying fish for $250 from the fishermen.

“You know what is 100 flying fish at $250? I remember years ago when you used to get 100 flying fish for $20. The least you can sell that pack of flying fish for is $35 because you have to pay somebody to bone them and you have to buy bags as well. Dolphin is scarce and you know once the fish scarce the fishermen does carry up the price. Dolphins used to sell at $6 and $7 per pound from the boat.

“When we buy it at $12 per pound now, we got to sell it at $14 per pound. Remember we got to buy ice, we got to buy bags so we have to add on at least $2 to make something for ourselves. But right now, you getting one and two billfish and a little bit of flying fish and as I said, the flying fish is expensive,” Layne said.

“A boat came in this morning and he went down Tobago side for a week and he came back with 16 dolphins. You understand he was at sea for a week and came back with $16 dolphins? Usually they would come back with 150 to 200 heads. I just don’t understand what is going on. All I can say is Lord, save us,” Layne added.

Vendor Sharon Bellamy-Thompson reported that for the past few weeks all she has been seeing is fishermen returning to the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex with small catches which they have been selling at a high price.

“We usually have our popular dolphin which people like for the holidays and the flying fish and the amberfish, but for the past two weeks there has been a decrease in the amount of fish coming in.

“Boats which usually come in with 300 Dolphin heads only come with five and some of them have none. Two hundred and fifty dollars for flying fish from the boat is a price that I have never seen in the years that I have worked at the market. People want fish because around Christmas time when some people are enjoying their ham and their turkey a lot of families want fish on their menu. Many people are disappointed. I have customers who are calling for the Dolphin and the Swordfish and I have to disappoint them,” Bellamy-Thompson said.

One fisherman at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex who requested that his name not be used indicated that the past month has been difficult for fishermen going out to sea and working overtime to return with favourable catch. The fisherman said that fishermen are not intentionally selling vendors the fish at high prices.

“When you go out there for days and you only come back with so much, you have to make money for yourself and for the boat. You still have to look at your overhead expenses and you still have to carry home something to your family. I don’t know what is going on right now,” the fisherman said.

A female vendor said she has had no issues getting her 25 packs of flying fish sold, even though some customers were not impressed about having to pay $35 per pack.

The cry was no different at the Oistins fish market where fisherfolks lamented that they were just not seeing the fish in large numbers as they are accustomed to at this time.

“People want certain fish but we can only give them what we are getting from the boats. And the fishermen could only bring in what they catch,” the vendor at the Oistins fish market said. anestahenry@barbadostoday.bb

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