A section of the Meadow Bank wharf on the East Bank Demerara (EBD) collapsed yesterday morning and fishermen at the facility listed a number of problems affecting the industry including a “dysfunctional” co-op society there.
The facility has been in a dilapidated state for a number of years and yesterday morning around 7.30 am during the peak period for fish sales, several fishermen were loading bags of fish from boats at the facility when planks underneath the structure gave way. As a result two fishermen sustained minor injuries.
The wharf houses the Georgetown Fishermen Co-op Society, an organization which fell apart over the years as a result of poor management, the fishermen said.
When this newspaper visited the wharf shortly after the incident yesterday morning, fishermen said it had been waiting to happen, given the dilapidated state in which the docking facility has been over the past decade. They said the wharf had not been repaired in years and they will be mounting a campaign in order to have the authorities resuscitate the society, which would simultaneously sustain and further develop the thriving industry.
Reports are that more than 200 boats operate at the wharf daily and in recent times, the fishermen had ceased making financial contributions to the society since it was being mismanaged. They said the shares were being bought by persons with “selfish” interests and as a result the body fell apart.
Leonard Jettoo, a boat owner and businessman who operates at the wharf, said he is willing to utilize his finances to assist in repairing the wharf. He wants to “get the ball rolling here because this here is people livelihood.” He said that on countless occasions in recent years, the fishermen have been engaging the authorities on the future of the wharf but nothing came of these talks.
He said a group of fishermen, including him, has pledged to carry out repairs to the wharf but, “they [government] need to come and assist we because this facility contributing to the economy.” He said that several days ago, the group prepared a letter, which so far has been signed by more than 75 fishermen, which they will forward to the Office of the President. He said the situation is dire adding, “this thing need attention and we hoping the president go look into it.”
Another businessman, Davanand Singh, noting that the wharf is in dire need of repairs, said such a move would be beneficial to the industry. He said a number of persons earn a living via the industry “not only these men here who go out to sea, but even the people working in those fish shops… so these people [government] need to see this as being serious.”
As regards yesterday morning, he said that on several occasions in the past persons sustained injuries at the section of the wharf where the incident occurred. “People does fall down here and injure themselves… Look, couple months back some people buying fish a morning fell down and a girl break she hand,” Singh stated.
He said there are other issues affecting the fishermen at the wharf, including security as well as the dredging of the area around the docking facility. He said the construction and management of a fuel depot for fishing purposes needed to be considered. Another fisherman told Stabroek News that fishermen collectively wished for a reduction in the price of fuel.
The Meadow Bank wharf is frequented daily by scores of customers from as early as 5.30 am. Persons travel from as far as the Linden/Soesdyke Highway to make purchases as fish and shrimp are sold at a competitive price.
Over the years, fish vendors and customers have been complaining about the shoddy state of the facilities at Meadow Bank, including the wharf. The road leading to the facility is usually flooded whenever it rains.
According to a fisherman, given the large number of fishermen who use the facility, the co-op is capable of raising as much as $1 million per month, which can be utilised to improve the facility. “It’s just that we need better management,” he said.