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Technology in fishing ‘not new’

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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The fishing industry has been using technology since the 1980s, and the education and training of fishermen have been in place almost as long.  
This is the view of Chelston Thomas of the Weston Fisherfolk Association, who said that well before the 1990s Victor Skeete, a fisheries officer at the time, taught groups of fishermen how to use navigation instruments, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and other machinery on fishing boats.
In disclosing this, Thomas was disagreeing with Vernel Nicholls, president of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organisations, who recently called on local fishermen to invest in technology.
Nicholls, in the WEEKEND Nation of Wednesday, August 18, called for fishermen to embrace technology as a means of bolstering the industry. She presented Canada’s fishing industry as an example to follow and called on the local fishermen to improve their fleets and become trained.
Thomas, however, said: “What a lot of people do not know is that we cannot take a computer to sea because it will not last two months. The water in Canada is dead water so fishermen can take computers and other equipment on board because they will not be affected by sea spray like in Caribbean waters.” Even though he rated the training in Canada as very good, Thomas said the training there was similar to that the local fishermen had already been exposed to.  
Thomas also said that some of the measures mentioned by Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn, at the launch of the two-week Fish Stock Assessment Workshop at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, were already in use by the fishermen and some boat owners were making every effort to maintain their boats. Several initiativesBenn said: “Vessel safety, improved data collection and registration for the proper handling of seafood are among several initiatives being proposed by Government. He added that vessel safety legislation was being drafted to set standards for the construction and survey of local fishing vessels 24 metres or less.”
Though Thomas did not knock the need for education and training, he said: “I would like to see the young persons coming into the industry trained, because you cannot just get onto a boat and say you are going fishing. The older persons have to teach the young ones and show them the landmarks. However, I still think the Government needs to look after all the needs of the fisherfolk, especially the fishermen who put their lives at risk.”
Thomas, who has been a boat owner for over ten years, said: “They are talking about upgrading the industry, also training and education, but what are they doing to help the plight of the fishermen?”  
A holistic look at the fishing industry is what Thomas proposed. One of the issues he called on the minister to address was the provision of a holding area for boats to use in times of emergency.  
The boat owner voiced other concerns. “The fishermen have to foot all the cost while the vendors get away scot-free. We have not gotten the diesel rebate promised since 2008.
“These are the areas that the minister needs to look into,” Thomas said.

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