Union Island fishers want facelift for ‘Waterfront’ (+Video)
Former president of the Union Island Fisherfolk Cooperative, Matthew Harvey
February 21, 2023

Union Island fishers want facelift for ‘Waterfront’ (+Video)

Plans by fisherfolk in Union Island to improve and expand their operations are being hindered by the lack of facilities in an area known as ‘Waterfront’.

SEARCHLIGHT visited the village of Ashton to see first-hand the current situation and speak with the spokesperson for the fishers, former president of the Union Island Fisherfolk Cooperative, Matthew Harvey.

The ‘Waterfront’ as Harvey pointed out, has been in a state of disrepair for close to three decades and the condition has grown especially worse within the last ten years. The facility which was designated as the space for the sale of fish to consumers was demolished, leaving only a pile of rubble and galvanize. The area where fishers dock is a narrow path which has been reinforced with conch shells and other debris. There is no shelter, bathroom facilities or running water.

Harvey pointed to a laundry list of requirements which they want the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to address promptly, including a building with wash room facilities, stalls, and a cold storage area.

“The old building that was there was demolished with the promise that we will get a new market, but up to now we still haven’t seen a new market or no improvement…. We need to have a market with proper facilities with ice, wash room and even some storage for the fishermen.”

Harvey explained that the lack of storage facilities continues to pose problems for the fishers and cuts into their profits when the fish spoils and has to be thrown away.

“Since we start to recognize this global warming and climate change, water on the shoreline has been getting warmer … when the temperature rise, the fish will move out into further water where they can find the right temperature water so they can live. Because of that the fishermen will have to move out further and spending more time out to sea in order to come back with a proper catch,” Harvey said.

More time out at sea means increased spending on gasoline and oil for their vessels as well as ice, he noted, adding that some vessels require at least 45 gallons of gasoline at EC$22 per gallon, as well as oil which retails at around $20 per bottle.

“We have to burn much more fuel because we going much more distance. Then you have to buy $20 to $30 worth of hard ice … we go out there and spend maybe up to 12 hours before we come back to shore. That ice is already done and you may only get back here again. Then another $30 again for more ice and sometimes you spend more than that because you want to ensure that the fish is iced properly so that it won’t spoil.”

When fishers return to shore, Harvey said it is a mad scramble to secure ice from persons in the community in order to prevent their catch from spoiling. He revealed that the issue of spoilage has been plaguing the fishers, which is frustrating considering the amount of money they are investing to secure their catch.

“… sometimes because of the time we have to stay out to sea, with the limited ice to get back here some of the fish would be burned. He [buyer] would reject the fish and most of the people from big establishments who buy fish would do the same thing. So all the fish would be turned back to you, that is a loss for the fishermen.”

Harvey added that the lack of storage facilities also presents concerns about the health and cleanliness of the fish being sold.

“At present it is not really sanitary the way in which we deal with fish for the consumer because we have to go on the street with an ice box, night as well as day to sell our fish.”

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