NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Fishers are facing the likelihood that this may be a ‘low yield’ year, according to Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) president Adrian LaRoda.
LaRoda told Eyewitness News there was also growing uncertainty surrounding the next lobster season with the export market virtually closed due to COVID-19.
He said fisherman had lobbied unsuccessfully to be declared an essential service, adding they were unlikely to receive maximum revenue being restricted to only sell their product to fish houses.
“Things are at a standstill generally at this time,” he said.
“Fishers are compliant with the COVID-19 orders and are cautious about being out conducting business. We tried to have the sector declared an essential service to allow direct sales to the public and continued to ask to be included in the orders, but after consideration the government opted not to allow it and all product have to be sold to a fish house who will then sell to the public.
“However fishers who needed to be accommodated with the securing of traps etc were allowed to do so. Commercial fishers can still work but in the restrictions all product must be sold to fish houses, which could put fishers at a disadvantage in terms of maximum revenue. The issue we face under the surface is most fishers are self employed and therefore no work no, money.”
LaRoda continued: “The cost of doing business is high so fishers plan for a minimum number of trips per season, so with the shut down and potential bad weather this may be a low yield year. Unfortunately this puts further strain on NIB, when we could have been working and generating our own revenue so as to not burden NIB, through social assistance.
“What also need to be considered is the psychological affect on people in this sector who are accustomed to be in the external spaces and are now confined. As always fishers are compliant and unlike a weather condition the uncertainty make this even more serious.”
LaRoda noted that which traditionally is a busy period for fishermen was not a good one for fishermen nor the general public this year.
“The market was shocked on both ends, with sellers and patrons feeling as though they lost out,” he said.
“The August lobster season gives a degree of uncertainty as the export market is virtually closed due to COVID-19 as people are not dining out and definitely not indulging in pricey food choices. While we hope they could be accessed by the start August harvest a lot rides on price. But as always I am optimistic.
“At the moment it is not so much the Bahamas reopening for business, but more is dependent on our external markets when people start dining out again,” he said.