Hearing them out

Fishing boats at Consett Bay.

The island’s estimated 600 fisherfolk will soon be given an opportunity to formally vent their grievances before the new season officially opens next month.

The assurance came today from President of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organisation, Vernell Nicholls, who also said she would be discussing with the Fisheries Division, what possible assistance it could render.

Responding to some fishermen’s concerns which were put to her by Barbados TODAY, Nicholls acknowledged being aware of challenges the industry was experiencing related to finances and infrastructure. She said while she knew that some fishermen were having difficulty, she was not informed that a lot of them might not be able to work in the coming season, due to a lack of money to repair their boats.

However, the BARNUFO leader told this newspaper, it was matters like that which she would be discussing with the fisherfolk before the season commenced.

“I know some persons had difficulty, but I will discuss with the Fisheries what type of help can be given. I hope to have a meeting before the season starts. People in the north have issues too,” she pointed out.

Nicholls also noted that the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex had outlived its capacity, considering the vast growth of the industry. The head of the fisherfolk representative organisation, observed, too, that all the sites around the island needed some measure of improvement.

“The fishing industry doesn’t get the kind of attention it deserves. It has the ability to grow and be sustainable. Our authorities don’t see the industry as anything to bother about,” Nicholls declared.

She disclosed that BARNUFO was conducting ongoing training for fishermen in such disciplines as navigation, boat maintenance and the practical aspects of safety at sea.

The spokeswoman also made an impassioned plea for all fisherfolk in Barbados to join the organisation so it could become a force with which to be reckoned on their behalf.

“We have to be united. We want people to get onboard. We need to speak with one voice. We are now like a voice in the wilderness,” insisted Nicholls.

She argued that if all fisherfolk in Barbados supported the organisation, the authorities were more likely to listen.

“Yes, government gives us a subvention, but we are not on anybody’s agenda. You would hear people talk a lot about agriculture, but do they talk about fisheries?” the BARNUFO President asked rhetorically.

Nicholls also noted that those fisherfolk who were not members of the organisation, still benefitted from its representation. Just yesterday, a number of fishermen, boat owners and builders expressed fears that a lot of them may not be able to put their vessels to work when the fishing season officially began next month because of a lack of money to carry our the necessary repairs. They also lamented the inadequate docking, repairing and hauling up facilities, particularly at Oistins, Consett Bay and the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex.

Some of them even blamed the eating of their boats by “sea worms” at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex on the “stagnant water” in the berthing area. It was suggested, that the area needed dredging and expanding to permit fresh water to pass through. (EJ)

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