Fishing is not just a livelihood; it is therapeutic and teaches patience whether you get a catch, which is unfortunately common these days. As a boy, my grandfather (Dolphy Parchment) fished for a living, and grandmother (Cynthia Dillion Parchment) sold the catch at the Santa Cruz Market. I came around just in time to see the last days of cotton boats (boats carved out of a cotton tree) man-powered, which my great grandfathers also had. Fishing is deeply entrenched in my history and culture; hence my father and I took on the trade.
I attended a town hall meeting hosted in Falmouth by the ministry of agriculture and fisheries. I was not surprised by the many concerns raised. The Minister (Hon. Floyd Green) made a statement that stood out to me, which also inspired this article. He said, “If you take care of nature, nature will take care of you.”
I remember Grate bay and Calabash bay fishing beaches when we would sit and wait for the bot (a tiny dot) to pop up on the horizon, pointing our fingers as we watched until it “grew” to shore, manned by a brave, passionate, proud and jolly crew. The boats came in so packed, leaving only a few inches for water to come in over the gunwale (top edge of the boat).
Fish was plentiful; every onlooker and those who helped pull boats in on logs (rollers) would get their dinners worth without scratching the profit. Fish so colourful, fresh, and plenty, sprawled out on the sand, like a blanket of rainbow covering the beach. Vendors received enough to sell in the market or in old refrigerators fitted in the back of pickup trucks heading out at 3 am to various parts of the island. I remember two bike men on “Honda 50” motorcycles that sold the small and low grade (Trash Fish) from their bikes fitted with two boxes on the back running parallel. One alias, “Wenchy,” from Barbary Hall, nicknamed from the Wenchman Fish, The other Nicknamed “Breddah Man.”
The history, culture, and tradition of fishing sustainably have been for so long taken for granted; its rebound is questionable. Profit over preservation has led to exploitation, and pollution is also an issue. Recovery continues to grow more challenging. Urgent strategy, unity, and effort need to be employed to preserve our marine life and fishing industry.
I will tell you about the fried fish and the coconut toto (Pastry) another time.
Randie Anderson Executive Chef, CEC, CCA, WCEC, MSc Gastronomic Tourism.
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