Mon | May 25, 2020

No fish selling - COVID-19 dries up business for St Thomas vendors

Published:Wednesday | April 1, 2020 | 12:08 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Hilean Mitchell, assistant secretary of the Morant Bay Fisher Folk Association and fish vendor.
Hilean Mitchell, assistant secretary of the Morant Bay Fisher Folk Association and fish vendor.

Fish vendors at the Morant Bay Fishing Village in St Thomas are bemoaning what they call a drastic decrease in sales since news of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reached the shores of the country.

The vendors said the requirement of social distancing has caused their customers to stop coming.

Speaking with The Gleaner, assistant secretary of the Morant Bay Fisherfolk Association, Hilean Mitchell, said though she understands the importance of social distancing during this time of crisis, she was concerned about her livelihood and that of her fellow fisherfolk.

“Because of the COVID-19 situation, our income has dropped. We sell fish here and because of the isolation, people are not coming out to buy and the fishermen are afraid to venture out to sea to bring in our produce because of no sale. Sale has dropped drastically. We have children to take care of and bills to pay, and so we are really suffering now at the Morant Bay Fishing Village,” she said.

The woman, who revealed that she has been a fish vendor for some 50 years, explained that the village has been her only source of income, on which she highly depends.

According to Mitchell, “We are usually out here from 6:00 in the morning, and sometimes all 7 p.m. we still no gone home. People would come throughout the day and support because we have regular customers. And now, for the day, I don’t even sell 10lb of fish good. It’s really going downwards. We are trying to adhere to the rules which the Government set out because I know it’s for our own good, but we are really at a loss … we are suffering.”

WANT SOME RELIEF

Fisherman and vendor Phelone Blake also shared that his catches remain in his possession, unsold.

“Sometimes we even go out and catch 20 pounds of lobster and a the hardest thing fi sell. Nobody is not coming to buy any. The people that even trying to sell their drinks here at the village not getting any support either,” he said.

“Nothing naw gwaan fi we down here. If you even buy some gas put in your boat guh catch little fish and come home, you have to take time roast it or give it away… nothing naw gwaan. We want help down here.”

The St Thomas fish vendors say they are hopeful that they will be included among those benefiting from COVID-19 relief measures being undertaken by the Government.

According to Minister of Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, a call centre will be set up to field queries from prospective applicants of the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programmes.

Applications for payment under the programmes will open on April 9 and corroboration from employers will be crucial to the process.

Clarke explained that craft and market vendors who are in “good standing” with the municipal authorities are eligible for payments.

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