BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
WHITEHOUSE, Westmoreland — HAVLAND Honeyghan, 71, has been serving the fishing industry for far longer than a lot of us have been alive.
His involvement in the sector- from the tender age of 15- spanning over five decades, however, has not gone unnoticed.
Next Monday, the fishing industry pioneer will be among the 138 Jamaicans to be honoured for service to the nation at the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House.
In August, the government announced that Honeyghan would receive the Order of Distinction (Officer Class), the country's fifth highest honour, for his sterling contribution to the fishing industry.
But Honeyghan told the Jamaica Observer West last week that when he steps on the dais to collect his prestigious award on Monday, he will not be doing so solely on his behalf.
In fact, the very outspoken and charismatic Honeyghan said it will be done on behalf of his Whitehouse community and the thousands of fishermen across the island.
"The recognition means a lot, not only to me, but to the community and the fishing industry," said the veteran fisherman.
"People have realised that what I was doing was of benefit to the nation. It wasn't for myself; it was service above self. I have been there for the fishers, I have spoken on behalf of the fishers and they have seen results from my many meetings on behalf of them."
He stressed that his service to the sector was not done in a bid to receive accolades.
"I was not expecting any accolades, I was only doing what I was supposed to do, and that is to help to better the lives of the fishers," he explained.
Over the years, Honeyghan has been outspoken on almost any matter affecting Jamaica's fisherfolk, who, he feels, are not accorded the respect due them for their contribution to the island's economy. That's not surprising coming from a man who has been a fisherman for decades and accustomed to defending the interests of other fisherfolk from as early as the 1970s.
As head of the 4,000-member strong Jamaica Fisherman's Co-operative Union (JFCU), for example, Honeyghan was a key figure in the fight against a previous government's proposed tax on several inputs used in the fishing trade.
He is also instrumental in the importation of equipment and materials worth roughly $150 million annually on behalf of members of the co-operative.
"We source fishing equipment and material at the cheapest for our members and we pass on the benefits to them. We also encourage the members to save," said Honeyghan.
Honeyghan, who is also chairman of the Whitehouse- based Gillings Gully Fisherman's Co-operative, said through his instrumentality, the co-operative has in recent years made more than 73 scholarships available to children of fishermen.
Activist that he is, Honeyghan served as a member of the Belize-based Caricom Fisheries Development Committee, and was on several committees and boards within and outside Jamaica's fishing industry, including the Westmoreland Agricultural Society, the board of the Westmoreland Development Company and the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council.
He is currently an advisor on
the Fisheries Advisory and Conch/Cess boards.
His love affair with fishing began with an early fascination with the sea, when he fantasised as a seven-year-old about being captain of the ships that used to sail from Port Kaiser in
"When I saw those ships I wanted to be a captain on one of those ships and it was my sole desire," he said. "It was something I started to gravitate to."
He would, some 20 years later, captain his first vessel, the M/V (motor vessel) Black Fin, preparing to become a professional fisherman through months of training under a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project.
A few years later, he successfully applied for a position as fisheries' instructor with the Fisheries Division. It was this job, which brought him in touch with fisherfolk, and which allowed him to realise his dream of captaining a vessel while deepening his participation in the world of fishing.
"I started at Fisheries Division and that is where my career as a marine captain began," he said.
He started work on the 35-foot M/V Albacore and was later transferred to the 45-foot M/V Blue Fin. In 1968, the UNDP/FAO programme, geared at training Jamaican fishermen, came on stream, and Honeyghan was among those selected to benefit from the initiative.
"I started my training programme in January 1968 on the 105-foot boat M/V Alcyon. The training involved basic seamanship, navigation, boat building, and I spent almost eight weeks in Barbados completing other courses," said Honeyghan, adding that the course was a very complex one.
A few months later, the Fisheries Department named Honeyghan second in command of the M/V Dolphin, a new boat they had bought from Rock Port, Texas. Later, he was made captain of a second boat acquired by the Division, the M/V Black Fin, which was built in Peru.
In 1985 Honeyghan gave up the job and got back to basics - fishing.
But his years with the Division had put him in good stead with the fisherfolk from across the island and particularly those who fish in the Pedro Cays, which he used to frequent in the course of his duties.
"Since that time, I have been putting in my services and representing the fishing industry in Jamaica, while at the same time assisting several other Caribbean islands setting up organisational structures," said Honeygham.
He has also been instrumental in setting up trusts for several fishermen who died at sea in recent years.
Some 30 children, he said, are benefiting from the trusts.
Now, as he takes stock of the years, Honeyghan admits that the business of fishing is as rewarding as it is challenging.
The industry, he noted, is under pressure mainly because of the high cost of equipment and inputs.
"A four-cylinder boat engine now costs more $600,000, and the life of an engine is about three years," said Honeyghan, adding that to build a small fishing boat runs at about $1million.
In addition, he said, poachers from Honduras, Colombia and Nicaragua are stealing lobsters from the pots of fishermen on the Pedro Bank.
But in spite of the challenges, Honeyghan remains committed to the fishing industry.
"I will continue to do what I am doing for the industry, until I can't do anymore," he told the Observer West.