Prime Minister, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell is encouraging fishermen to work collaboratively to bring about greater benefits for themselves and the industry.
Addressing a group of fishermen affiliated to the Southern Fishermen Inc., during a recent meeting, Dr Mitchell expressed the view that better organised fishermen, together with a better-functioning Division of Fisheries will bring significant changes in the operational efficiency of the industry.
The fishermen voiced a number of concerns including repairs to the Grand Mal Jetty, more affordable financing for boats, the cost of fuel and export capacity and pricing.
Dr Mitchell assured the fishermen that Government has already set aside $200,000 towards the repair of the Grand Mal Jetty, which is being done as a collaborative venture with the association and Spice Isle Fish House.
The delay of the repair work is outside the control of Government. The contractor identified was unable to undertake the project and as such, a new one must be selected.
With regard to financing, Dr Mitchell mentioned the more attractive loan conditions being offered through the Grenada Development Bank as part of Government’s second Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Support package.
Eligible persons can obtain larger loans, with a lower interest rate and an extended grace period. Here again, Dr Mitchell cited the need for greater collaboration among fishermen, who as a group can lobby Government to ensure that the loan conditions are suitable for their needs.
Addressing the concern about the cost of fuel and the impact on viability for fishermen with small boats, Dr Mitchell said the suggestion for placement of the pump at the Grand Mal Jetty can be examined. However, he noted that any such venture must be properly managed, as there has been historic misuse of resources in the fishing industry.
The problem with export capacity was resolved just hours prior to the recent meeting, with Amerijet agreeing to increase airlift capacity from 40,000 to 80,000 pounds from October. This will hopefully reduce the number of fishermen who are compelled to travel to neighbouring islands to sell their catch.
The price per pound offered by exporters is also a contributing factor to this developing practice and here again, the suggestion was that the fishermen organise themselves and engage the exporters to negotiate for better pricing.
The fishing industry is gaining recognition as a viable economic sector. The Southern Fishermen Association alone, exported $7.2 million worth of fish during its 2018/2019 financial year. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, this figure declined to $3.6 million while local sales increased and already for 2021, the association has exported $4.5 million worth of fish. Overall, on a national level, the fishing industry generates tens of millions in revenue annually.
The Prime Minister assured fishermen that Government will do whatever it can to help the industry succeed. He said, “An investment in fishing is not wasted; when fishermen succeed, the country will succeed. Our job is to facilitate as much of the development as possible because the earnings of fishermen will positively impact the country, but there must be leadership among the fishermen as Government cannot solve all of the issues by itself. Some of the most successful people in some countries are fishermen but the right systems and strict accountability must be in place. We can work together to find solutions and chart the way forward for the local fisheries sector.”
The Prime Minister, who is also the Parliamentary Representative for St George North West, has also committed to undertake some work at the constituency level to help improve safety and security for fishermen in Beausejour.
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