St Elizabeth South Western fishers struggling

St Elizabeth South Western fishers struggling

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Staff reporter
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 31, 2020

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GREAT BAY, St Elizabeth — Depleting fish stocks, high cost of fishing equipment and the economic impact of the novel coronavirus have dealt fisherfolk major blows as they struggle to make a livelihood.

When the Jamaica Observer visited the Great Bay fishing village in the St Elizabeth South Western constituency recently, there was little to no activity as only a few fishermen were seen viewing the Caribbean Sea, hopeful that better days will come.

“We have every kind of challenge that you can think of, because the price of the fishing material is so high that the fisherman can hardly manage to buy the equipment. Remember now, a brand-new engine is over $750,000 and most of these guys that you see fishing along here are poor people,” Jimmy Clarke told the Observer.

“One roll of wire is about $14,000, you only can get five pots out of that,” he added.

Poaching and overfishing by locals and foreigners have contributed to the depletion of the local seafood stock, with fisherfolk now feeling the devastating effects where it hurts most, in their pockets.

“We hardly have any fish around here. If the fishermen don’t catch two lobster in the lobster season, then dem seh dog eat we supper… There is no earning [now]. Some people just have to spend the little savings that they have,” Clarke said.

Thieves are also hurting the livelihood of fisherfolk, adding to the difficulty faced by fishermen.

Ian Smith said he has suffered at the hands of thieves who steal fishing pots.

“Fishing business go and come, sometimes you set the pot and dem thief it, sometimes the breeze come mash it up. Right now, is a chance with fishing, because it’s not going [well] right now as how it is supposed to go. One time the fish did deh deh, but right now the reef dem shoot out by divers, so we just deh yah a watch wah a gwaan,” Smith said.

He, like many others, has become a seasonal fisherman, and has turned to farming to earn a livelihood — but that also has its challenges.

“With the farm thing right now [we have] dry weather… The pak choi, lettuce — right now lettuce deh pon price — but the weather deh pon it. Melon and sweet pepper dem ting deh pon price, but right now dem nah ketch the crop because as you ketch the crop, the dry weather deh pon you,” Smith said.

When the Observer visited the Black River Safari (river-boat tours) in St Elizabeth’s capital, Black River, business was slow.

“Sometimes not even one person comes here for the day, that is how bad business is,” an employee of the famous safari said.

There are four divisions in St Elizabeth South Western, namely Brompton, Black River, Mountainside, and Pedro Plains, with just over 31,000 electors. Incumbent Floyd Green, the Jamaica Labour Party’s candidate, and the People’s National Party standard-bearer Ewan Stephenson will face-off to represent the constituency in the national polls on Thursday.

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