Manchioneal fisherfolk plead for help from the Government

FISHERFOLK in Manchioneal, Portland, are begging for help from the Government as they claim they have been hit hard by the economic hardships associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Jamaica Observer visited Manchioneal recently and the cry from several of the fisherfolk was the same — they are suffering and their customers are unwilling, or unable to pay more for fish.

Among the people who spoke with the Observer was Nicholas Henry, a 37-year veteran of the sea. He argued that the Government needs to help them move into other fields to give them a chance to survive.

“Some a di time we can’t get fi go out fi catch fish…so we would like some help from the Government so we can raise even some chicken or some other thing alongside the fishing. The fishing is very hard; that’s why we need a back-up so when the fishing slow down, we have something,” said the 51-year-old.

Henry was supported by a colleague who pointed to increased prices the fisherfolk are paying for everything they use to make a living.

“Fishermen need help inna Manchioneal. We need wire and rope and thing fi mek fish pot — that is a problem. Because a COVID, everything get sticky. Everything raise, especially all di boat gas. Twenty litres a fluctuate between $13,000 to $14,000. A deh suh it deh,” said the fisherman who asked not to be named.

“Di fishing pot wire get expensive and fish price can’t raise because poor people a bawl seh dem can’t manage di raise a price, but everything else a raise! All di stale flour fi mek di bait fi di pot, everything raise. We want likkle help wid dem thing deh round here,” he added.

He explained that the fisherfolk in Manchioneal rely on fish pots to make their catch, and it is very expensive to buy or build a pot.

“The resources are available locally but the problem is the funds to buy it. The material dem a raise and the fish naa raise. Di fish cheap and you can’t raise it on the household people because [a] di current economic situation.

“When we sell the fish at that price, it nuh work out. We might raise di fish and den you end up have di whole a dem siddung inna your fridge a your yard, so you affi sell di fish at a price weh not only the rich can buy, but everybody can buy.

“Fi sell di fish at that price, we still have to repair di pot dem and buy gas, feed your family and pay bills — di money nah add up. Some man borrow money fi pay fi engine and dem something deh,” declared the fisherman.

Efforts to contact Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green for a response to the Manchioneal fisherfolk have so far been unsuccessful, but late last year he announced that the Government had allocated $120 million in production incentives for fishers and fish farmers.

At that time Green told Parliament it was estimated that the fisheries sector could lose up to US$23.1 million during 2020 due to COVID-19.

Green continued to highlight the plight of fishers last month as he called on financial institutions to provide low-cost capital for them. Addressing a post-Sectoral Debate media briefing, Green said farmers and fishers were being held back due to the inability to access affordable financing.

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