A fisherman's taleFriday, July 30, 2021
FARQUHAR BEACH, Clarendon — For over four decades, Leroy Powell has lived in this seaside community in south-west Clarendon. He's been a fisherman for most of his life, but now the trade he loves has become something of a gamble.
“Sometimes you go out there and you nuh catch nothing. You haffi make sure seh you catch fish cause most man go sea and they [get] the bait and gas [on credit], and when they come back they pay for it. Sometimes they go and can only find half of the money, other times you go and you bingo [do well],” Powell told the Jamaica Observer. “Fishing supplies are very expensive — one gallon jug of gas costs $1,050 and we need between eight to 10 gallons. These days when you going out a sea, the least expense you looking at is about $12,000 to $15,000,” he added as he weaved a fishing net for a customer.
He has mastered the intricate art of making these nets as a way to supplement his income. But that, too, is costly and time- consuming. Powell said it can take up to four days and 10 pounds of mesh to make one net. He has become a jack of all trades, trying anything he can to eke out a living. “It's not always smooth sailing but sometimes you affi do a likkle bit of everything. Sometime me do net, set fish pot, run a likkle shop and do a little selling — and everything mix up. You can't just do one thing; sometimes we catch crab and sell it too,” he said in explaining how he survives.
He is just one of the more than 100 men who fish on the beach, the only way they know how to make a living. Powell estimates that each can haul in 30 pounds of catch, on average. Selling the fish is the problem.
He has seen a sharp decline in sales since the onset of the novel coronavirus. Customers who once hosted events no longer need his fish as those activities have been curtailed, he said, while others have lost their jobs and therefore have less money to spend with him. It does not help that the price of fishing supplies have gone up.
“The whole a wi have it hard and so if they keep it at a normal price [then] everybody can afford it. Right now mi still nuh have an engine for myself. I only have the boat. I would really like to get [an engine] if I can get a likkle help,” he said.