Despite growing fears that the removal of the fuel subsidy would result in unemployment and a shortage of seafood, one economist is optimistic that a reduction in the number of fishing vessels may actually have long-term benefits for the local seafood industry.
Dr Sharon Hutchinson, lecturer at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) faculty of food and agriculture said while the negative effects of increasing diesel prices are clear, many commercially valuable fish stocks have been rapidly depleted due to overfishing and a reduction in fishing pressure may give remaining stocks time needed to recover.
“From a societal point of view, cutting back on landings for certain kinds of fish isn’t all bad as some of our fisheries are over fished. We have essentially gone beyond what is optimal for society’s perspective. So some of these costs that will result may actually help that.”
Government, she said, has yet to address basic concerns of the fishing community and has failed to develop the local fishing industry into an economic earner, which has exacerbated the negative effects of the budget. Citing the high risk associated with the local fishing industry, Hutchinson says that government has failed to lower the risk, by not providing the necessary resources and facility to fisher folk.
“My concern with the increase is that some of the basic problems that the fishery sector continues to face has not really been addressed in the budget and there are no concrete plans as to how they will treat with this. We know that fishing is a very high risk industry especially in rural communities when you look at the support systems that are in place or lack thereof, there re no proper ice facilities of the absence of security at landing sites or even proper landing sites for the sale of the fish.”
Hutchinson said that negative spill-over effects from limited fishing are obvious and said that additional support systems from the Ministry of Local Government or the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government could assist communities that were heavily dependent on fishing as a livelihood.