Fishing village at Consett Bay, St. John (E.Jones/BGIS)

The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, has strongly refuted claims that the department has been slow to offer assistance to fishermen at the Oistins Fish Market.

In an article in the press entitled Oistins Fishermen cry for ???a lift’ on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, fisherman Hallam Mayers said he was waiting since summer to have his boat hauled ashore by the Fisheries Division, while others claimed that they were waiting since last year.

However, Chief Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Stephen Willoughby, has rejected these claims, saying his department has always been willing and ready to assist fishermen, whenever possible.

He said the problem arose as some of the fishing boats exceeded the safety operation limits of the trailer hoist at Consett Bay, St. John and as such, it was unadvisable to use that equipment to haul the vessel onto land.

Such action, the Chief Fisheries Officer explained, could result in damage to the vessel, the equipment or injury to personnel. The safety limit for operation of the trailer hoist is less than 38 feet 8 inches in length and less than 10 tonnes in weight.

According to Mr. Willoughby, the Division wrote Mr. Mayers on August 4, 2011, outlining the reasons they were unable to haul his vessel ashore from Consett Bay, noting that the boat had exceeded the recommended safety limits of the lifting equipment and suggesting that the vessel be lifted at the Bridgetown Public Market and placed in the Bridgetown boatyard.

"I am surprised to hear him say he was still waiting since summer to get his vessel hauled to shore. I spoke to him also and told him exactly why we could not haul his boat.

I once again gave him alternatives for getting his vessel out of the water and explained that Government offered a rebate of 25 per cent of the lifting fee if they used the private sector to lift the vessel…He is fully aware of the situation," the Chief Fisheries Officer stressed.

Mr. Willoughby also revealed that boat lifting equipment had been purchased for Oistins. However, beach erosion and rock movement in the armour due to high waves and rough seas had caused the narrowing of the slipway.

In this regard, he said it would be unwise to install equipment in that area without an assessment of the integrity of the slipway and its capacity to accommodate the operation of the boat lifting equipment.

"The Ministry wanted to get some engineering testing done on the slipway to make sure that it could hold the weight of the equipment plus the weight of the boat. When the slipway was built in the late 1970s, the vessels using the boatyard were relatively small but now the size of boats has increased tremendously…Engineers were employed to carry out the assessment and we received the report only this week. So, we are now in the process of looking over the recommendations," the Fisheries official explained.

Mr. Willoughby added that the department had also met with the fishermen on August 19, 2011 and updated them on plans for the Oistins boatyard and indicated that the bigger boats could be accommodated at the Bridgetown boatyard. According to the report of the meeting, Mr. Mayers was present.

On the issue of the "high fees" charged by the private sector, Mr. Willoughby indicated that the Fisheries Division had no control over those prices.

However, he pointed out that Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, offered a rebate to fishermen where they could be reimbursed 25 per cent of the lifting fees if the vessel was back in the water within 112 days.

Mr. Willoughby added that the Fisheries Division?? assists fishermen even outside of normal working hours in case of "boat emergencies" and they could contact the department at 426-3745, 426-5973, or 427-8480 or visit its office on the Princess Alice Highway, Bridgetown for further information or to get answers to any queries.


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