July 21, 2015
No part of the whale is wasted – vendor

by Joreen Francis

Although orcas and pilots are different types of whales, both species are processed using the same techniques.

Veronica Solomon, a resident of Barroualllie who processes and sells corned meat, crisps and oil, told SEARCHLIGHT in an interview on Sunday that the {{more}}procedure for processing both mammals is the same.

Whaler Samuel Hazelwood agreed, adding that although the whales are different, they are both are caught for the same purposes.

“Killer whales and pilot whales are different; killer whales are black and white and pilot whales are black with a slightly grey on its belly, but the whale’s meat and skin are processed the same way.”

Hazelwood said after the whalers bring the whales ashore, vendors buy the meat and begin to separate the skin from the fleshy part of the meat.

He said some vendors process the whales on the beach, but he finishes his processing at home.

“Whales are cut up on the beach, then taken in a container and finished at my home, but other vendors do everything on the beach and the meat, crisps and oil are stored in stalls there.”

Solomon, who does all her processing on the beach, said after the whales are brought to land she buys the meat from whalers and employs persons to assist her in organizing it for sale.

“I buy the whales from a whaler like Samuel. I employ six persons, four males and two females. The males are responsible for cutting the meat in small pieces and [the] skin in cubes. Females’ tasks are washing and salting the meat. I do the corning.”

Solomon, who has 23 years experience processing whale meat, said the females hang the whale meat on bamboos frames, while the task of the men is to deep fry the skins to produce crisps. She stressed that cutting and salting of the meat is completed in one day to prevent spoilage.

“… the meat is bloody, fleshy and easily rotten if not processed the same day it was bought,” Solomon said.

“Everything is done on the beach.”

She also disclosed that the whales are corned using the same method as other types of meat.

“I corn the whales like how people corn a piece of fish or pork and put them to dry.”

However, the price at which the products are sold depends on how they are processed, Hazelwood said.

“The meat can be done in different ways; consumers can boil the meat and prepare it like stew beef, but most people prefer when vendors cut the meat in 10 to 15 lbs, salt and sun-dry for two days, then package them in bags for $5 EC,” he disclosed.

He added that no part of the whale is wasted and only the bones are thrown away.

“Nothing is being waste from the whales, even the teeth are used as pendants and earrings and the only thing that is thrown away is the bones.”

He added that Vincentians and tourists buy the teeth as souvenirs.

The skin of the whales is used to make crisps and the oil that is drained from the crisps is what is bottled and sold.

He explained that the skin is cut in small cubes, washed properly then placed in half of an oil drum, which is heated using firewood.

“When the oil from the cubes appear, then we know the crisps are finished then [they] are put in buckets and removed, leaving the oil to cool and bottled for sale.”

Hazelwood added that crisps are packaged and sold for between EC$2 to $5.

“We take the crisps out and leave them to cool off, then put them in buckets until we start packaging in $2, $3 and $5 bags for the market.”

Hazelwood said the meat is handled differently.

The meat is cut into pieces of varying weights, salted and hung on bamboo stands until it dries.

“We cut the meat of the whales in pounds, salt and put to dry for two to three days in hot sun.”

He mentioned that he takes the dried meat, crisps and oil to Kingstown and to the windward side of the island on weekends.

“I sell on Fridays and Saturdays in the country- side and persons also come by my home and purchase the end products of the whales.”

Hazelwood is of the opinion, however, that our national dish should be changed to blackfish and roast breadfruit.

“Jackfish and roast breadfruit is our national dish, but they need to change it to black fish and roast breadfruit, because it is preferred all over St Vincent and the Grenadines!”

Whalers in Barrouallie have a tradition of hunting pilot whales, but from time to time orcas are also caught.