NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamian fishers have urged the government to lift the restriction on the sale of fish during the shutdown imposed by the Emergency Powers COVID-19 Order.
Fishers are requesting that the restrictions be reviewed to allow for the sale of fish from fish markets.
The request is detailed in a letter by the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) to Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis previously indicated that fish must be sold to licensed wholesalers who will in turn sell to the public once the order is lifted.
BCFA vice-president Keith Carroll said: “We feel as though fish is no different from any other food. We want to be able to sell it to the public. A lot of boats are out to sea. We don’t know what will happen when they come back in.”
The BCFA has pointed out that fishermen are willing to enforce social distancing rules and limit trade to specified hours.
“While we make to representation for wholesalers, we wish to also ask that they be allowed to operate as a food store to limit the congregating of people in the fish markets, the BCFA has stated.”
Carroll said: “I think the minister is working with us. He sent some information to us and wanted to get our feedback. We are going to follow the law. We definitely want to do things in a safe way to avoid this virus. We don’t want to draw any big crowds if the government allows it but practice social distancing like the other business are doing.”
Yesterday, Agriculture and Marine Resources minister Michael Pintard moved to clarify the rules.
“Those persons engaged in subsistence fishing, that is going out for a day trip, small scale fishing for personal use or to sell to a fish processing plant, a wholesaler or to someone who is running a takeout, those persons are permitted to go out fishing and ought not to be impeded,” Pintard said.
“Secondly, those commercial fishermen who are engaged in the lobster fishing trade who have a very short time before the end of the lobster season are similarly permitted but are encouraged to engage in social distancing.”
Pintard continued: “Thirdly, what is prohibited at this time is the sale direct to the public by fishers. Fishers are being encouraged to sell their wares to fish processing houses, persons who engage in takeout and wholesalers.
“The reason being, there is concern that there must be a properly supervised and sanitized environment where social distancing can also be enforced.The only point where we are encouraging fishers to have a conversation among themselves and if recommendations can be made on how a fish market much like farmers market can be permitted.
“If fish market can be organized where sanitary conditions are observed and where social distancing is enforced those fishers might make the case so I can take the recommendation to the Attorney General and colleagues and there is a possibility though not guaranteed that that can also be included in the new order which is likely to come out sometime next week.”