Fishing is Marigot’s future
Editorial note. While I was researching this article, I came across several Caribbean towns called Marigot that have long been turned from fishing villages into ugly tourist areas with mostly empty sky-rise hotels lining the seafront. Our Marigot already boasts of having tourist cottages. It would take so little to support Haiti’s artisanal fishing. If we are not vigilant, the fishing industry in the southeast will be destroyed. This would be a great loss to Haiti. Tourists are much more fickle than fish, and regrettably, one cannot eat them. DC.
By Joachim Dieudonne
English | French
Translated from the French by Dady Chery, Haiti Chery
Fishing is an almost inexhaustible wealth for the fishermen of Marigot. If everyone behaves responsibly, this southeastern town, about thirty kilometers from Jacmel, has a chance at a bright future. On the other hand, fishermen complain about a precariousness of resources and lack of materials, including fish aggregating devices (FADs)*, from the area.
On market day Saturday, Marigot’s seafront is packed with people. Everyone comes for his own reason. Market women and traders from neighboring towns come on business. No need to be an expert in economics to see that people aren’t wasting their time. Some are more entrepreneurial than others, but all combine to make this market work.
Impossible not to notice the part of the market reserved for fish as soon one enters it and sees the lobsters, pink fish fresh from the sea, dried fish, etc. Women fish cleaners work at a frantic pace. They do not care to be interrupted, which is why from time to time, they throw invectives at annoying or overbearing passers-by.
Near to these brave women–as suggested by the name of a southeastern association–the men have erected a metal structure that holds the scales the state cannot. Buyers here and there, from Port-au-Prince or Jacmel, come to stock up for the better and for the price. Restaurateurs, hotel managers: they look around, come and go. Suppliers are accustomed to their presence here and offer them their seafood. They weigh the conch, the lobsters.
Prices are evidently known to all. After the weighing come the calculations. Sellers and buyers do not necessarily agree. Argument. Exchange of words. A call to order. And the final word. They are forced to agree. Deal. Fishing is key to the economy of Marigot, in addition to a culture of eating foods like: bananas, yams, and yucca. In the hills, greater priority is given to market gardening.
The many boats (buildings, as they are called) aligned along the shore give proof that this mode of transportation enjoys a certain favor in the area, and particularly in business. The port talked about does not exist in reality. There’s no infrastructure worthy of the name. The presence of the state is not very visible. Not to worry. Business is good. At least in appearance.
Marianne, a spirited woman in her forties, comes from Grand Gosier to sell the lobsters that her husband collected at sea. Despite her great concern for the future of her five children, she has no intention to let go of her conch at low prices.
“The money earned here must serve the whole family. If one does not keep one’s eyes open, one gets taken in this business, “
says Marianne, who thinks fishing should be more highly valued in the country.
For the manager of a hotel in Jacmel who comes regularly to Marigot for his supplies, this is one of the best places for this kind of activity. The seafood comes from all the municipalities along the coast of the department.
“The best way to engage in fish trade in Marigot is to have a cold room,”
says Vitho Jouissance, president of the Fishermen’s Association of Marigot (ASPEMAR).
This association, founded in 2005, is struggling for its survival.
According to ASPEMAR’s President, a DCP (device to collect deep-sea fish) is a must for the area’s fishermen.
“A DCP is the ultimate dream for a worker of the sea,”
believes Mr. Jouissance, who explains that, to use a DCP, Marigot’s fishermen must travel to Morne Rouge or Jacmel. These long journeys require expensive outlays for fuel. On the other hand, Mr. Jouissance does not need to go all over the place seeking help from agencies charged with assisting the fisheries sector.
Vitho Jouissance, who is also responsible for the Village of Fishers of Food for Marigo’s Poor, notes that one project with a green foundation built the building that houses the association’s headquarters. The building received coolers and other equipment to assemble a fishing store for the area. Not to mention a yacht to replace one lost in the earthquake.
ASPEMAR did benefit from some field-training sessions from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, it has been some time since FAO officials were noticed in the area, he said. Faced with this situation, Vitho Jouissance, on behalf of the fishermen from Marigot, calls on all institutions from the fishing town to take note of the dilapidated state of the fishing sector and the poverty of the people so as to design projects that will yield some progress.
Residents and fishermen of Belle-Anse, Anse-à-Pitre, and Grand Gosier regularly come to Marigot on business. A Spanish organization did donate a solar-powered freezer to ASPEMAR, but the fishermen continue to complain about their lack of liquidity and a lack of credit for those who are poorest.
Despite the many difficulties faced by Marigot’s fishermen in exploiting the sea, fishing remains of paramount importance to the area’s economy. According to many, if this industry were properly managed, it could be the future of Marigot.
Fish-aggregating devices (FAD) are simple buoys or floats that are tethered to the ocean floor with heavy objects, like concrete blocks; hundred of fish species are attracted to FADs.
VIDEO: Sustainable artisanal fishing in Haiti’s southeastern town of Jacmel (Creole)
Source: Le Nouvelliste (French) | Haiti Chery (English, photos)