By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Crawfish fishermen may suffer at least a 40 percent year-over-year decline in prices for their catch compared to last season’s peak, it was revealed yesterday.
Paul Mailis, director of the National Fisheries Association of The Bahamas, told Tribune Business: “We don’t know yet what the exact price is going to be because we will find out as the exporters start beginning to export out, and the buyers start buying again.
“It’s a very, very grim look, and we don’t know if it’s going to be $5 a pound or $10 a pound, but right now we are being told it’s going to be in the under $10 range, which is going to be very tough on fishermen this year. The peak price before the end of the season last year was $17 per pound.”
Mr Mailis, though, added that product spoilage such as that experienced at Potter’s Cay Dock due to the COVID-19 shutdown of vendors would not impact the export market.
“I think that the conch spoilage is really only a factor for folks that sell conch on the side of marinas and on the side of the road,” he added. “So there is going to be some conch poisonings going around, and that may impact demand for sure, but in terms of the larger commercial operations that go out and get skinned conch, or bring conch back to land in shell in mass, that’s not going to be so much of a problem.
“The big conch fishermen aren’t going to bring shell to dock if they know they are not going to be able to sell it.They are just going to leave it out on the seabed. But the skinned conch operators will still be functioning because they skin and they freeze, so they just store it in the freezer and sell them to the seafood houses, and the seafood houses just store it in their freezers. But, of course, they are probably getting the low end of this price spectrum as well.”
Mr Mailis also encouraged the Government’s policy of allowing fishermen to be exempt from the COVID-19 shut down orders ahead of the August 1 season start. “We want as many Bahamians working on fishing boats as possible, and de-prioritise granting work permits for foreign divers, because this is a time when Bahamian labour is needed most,” he argued.
“Everything is going as if nothing has changed and it just can’t continue this way. We have been advocating for 25 years to make this industry for Bahamians only, and there are still foreign fishermen working on Bahamian boats. This is horrible. The Fisheries Act is before Parliament and it needs to be passed.”
Keith Carroll, the former Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) vice-chairman, said of likely crawfish prices: “We don’t have the slightest idea. We don’t know, but we are hoping that the price would be good so we can make something. We don’t think we will get the price that we got last year.
“I think it may be less, but we are not sure. For the persons that buy our lobsters, they don’t know either. I just hope that we have a good season and that the price is good so we can make some money.”