August 14, 2015
Fisherfolk call for reopening of fisheries complex at Owia

by Azanie Lavia

The promised refurbishment, upgrading and reopening of the Owia fisheries complex cannot come too quickly for the fishermen of that community.

SEARCHLIGHT visited Owia last Thursday and spoke with a group of fishermen who {{more}}called on the Government to reopen the facility which has been closed for at least three years.

Fisherman James Nanton claimed that when the complex, which was constructed in 2009, was open, he would sell the fish he caught to the fisheries complex, which was of great benefit to him, because he did not have to “hustle” himself to sell it.

Nanton stated that if the complex is reopened, it would be good for the fishermen in the area.

Kenvern John, another fisherman, occasionally sold his catch to the complex when it was in operation; however’ he said that now it is closed, the fishermen have taken to selling their fish on the roadside. He also mentioned that he used to make more money when he sold it to the complex and in his opinion, the complex closed because of a lack of support from some people in the community.

The main concern of Ambro Williams, on the other hand, is the need for security to be put in place at the complex. “The fisheries want clean and a security to secure the place, because we clean here already and watch how it dirty again…”

Williams said that now that the complex is closed, they have the added expense of hiring vehicles to take their fish around to get it sold. “It very hard for us ah night time when we ketch fish ah night.”

Deswayne Williams, a resident of Owia said people in the community need the complex. He said he would be “glad” if the complex reopens and that they are “ready to get it up and running again.”

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation and Industry Saboto Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the complex closed after fish landings decreased in 2010 in the wake of Hurricane Tomas.

“Many of the fishers suffered damage… in the recovery, some persons resorted to selling fish subsistence on the street. Fish landings must increase for the centre’s operations to be viable and we will be giving incentives to the private sector to ensure that.”

Responding to a question in Parliament on July 4, 2015, Caesar said that the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, along with the Government of Japan, would be upgrading the machinery and equipment at fishing centres here.

“The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is engaged in a project funded by the Government of Japan to refurbish five of the fisheries centres and the Kingstown Fish Market, to improve and upgrade current machinery and equipment. The fisheries centres to be refurbished or upgraded are Calliaqua, Bequia, Owia, Canouan, Union Island and Kingstown.”

Caesar also disclosed that two refrigerated trucks will be provided as part of this project to transport fish and fish products to the marketing throughout the state. He stated that over the last three years, the government has received offers by investors to create “joint ventures” to manage the various fishing centres here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Owia Fisheries Complex was opened on April 14, 2009, built at a cost of EC$33 million and was funded by the Government of Japan. The complex houses a jetty and breakwater, slipway, fishers’ lockers, office quarters, ice making machine, cold and chill, storage facilities and fuel station. The role of the facility was to help upgrade the fishing industry and improve the standard of living in North Windward.