Coronavirus
JM | Nov 23, 2020

COVID takes big bite out of St Catherine fishermen’s livelihoods

/ Our Today

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Under normal circumstances, the Old Harbour Bay Fishing Village in St. Catherine would be abuzz with activity, as fisherfolk and customers would interact with each other, peddling a variety of fish and other seafood items.

However, since the coronavirus pandemic, business has slowed
considerably with social distance restrictions and other measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus.

Michael Barnett, a fisherman since he was 15 years old, said business has been difficult and that he and his colleagues often unable to make ends meet to feed their families.

“Look at the beach how it empty,” Barnett said as he spoke with Our Today.

“One time you come here, you don’t have place to walk and business was going good. Now, sometimes not even the gas we can buy to power the boat out to sea. God bless what we sell.”

Barnett added that they have also had to reduce the cost per pound for fish to remain viable.

“We are basically giving them away.”

He said, weather permitting, they catch up to 100 pounds of fish, and that is why, at times, it is difficult for them to sell at such reduced prices.

According to the fisherman, depending on the type of fish, prices would range between $150 and $500 per pound.

“In these times, at our highest price we sell for $350 per pound. At the end of each week, we barely take home $3,000. One time we make up to $15,000 for the week. Remember that not all of us work for ourselves,” he said.

FISHERMEN AWAITING GOVERNMENT’S HELP

To date, he noted that a subvention promised to them by the government has not been received, and they are in dire straights heading into the holiday season.

“This time of year, we would make some good money, but it’s not looking promising right now.”

Fishing boats docked at Hellshire Beach in St Catherine.

Similar sentiments were echoed by fisherfolk at the Hellshire Beach, in St. Catherine, where customers were seen buying fish from the boats that came in from the sea.

For each weight of fish – from six to eight pounds, customers paid between $2,000 and $4,000 per half weight or full weight.

At this location there seemed to be greater demand for fish as within half an hour of the boat coming in, the load was finished.

“Most persons just wait for boat to come in, either in the morning
or the afternoon, and purchase their fish,” said one fisherman.

“Since the pandemic and the restrictions, it has been hard. They even have restrictions on persons accessing the beach, so many times we are here and nothing don’t sell.”

Trevor, who works at Hellshire Beach in St Catherine

However, it seemed more people were buying fish from the boats than from the restaurants that line the beach front. Several men were at the entrance to the beach, coaxing customers to patronise the shops that were empty, except for their proprietors.

The normally busy beach was like a ghost town, with just a few persons venturing outside.

“Nothing is going on here,” said one of the men who identified himself as Trevor.

“Since the pandemic and the restrictions, it has been hard. They even have restrictions on persons accessing the beach, so many times we are here and nothing don’t sell,” he said.

KH

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