Fisheries – understanding the flying fish problem

Walter Blackman

Walter Blackman

If we are going to restructure the Barbadian economy successfully, a radical change in attitudes and government policy in the areas of agriculture and fisheries is required.

The objective of this article is to educate readers to the point where we can agree on the origin and nature of our fisheries problem. The next step will be to focus on a solution.

Since the abolition of slavery, the peoples of Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), and Guyana, for the most part descendants of slaves and indentured servants, have enjoyed a close and peaceful relationship. The functional co-operation among these three CARICOM states reached its height in the mid-1970’s under Prime Ministers Errol Barrow, Dr. Eric Williams, and Forbes Burnham.

However, considerations related to fish, oil, and natural gas began to creep into Barbados – T&T economic and political relations, and by 1976, the two countries started to engage each other in a series of meetings to deal with these and other matters.

Around this time, Barbados gained a technological foothold in the area of long-range fishing through the introduction of ice boats which provided Barbadian fishermen with the ability to fish in waters ranging from about 60 to 150 nautical miles off Barbados. Naturally, Barbadian ice boats started to pursue the migratory flying fish to the ‘high seas’, as they were called back then, off Tobago.

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Come Fuh Yuh Flyin Fish

Flying Fish and Coucou - National Dish of Barbados

There was a time in Barbados – seems like a long time ago, – when eating two or three flying fish at the dinner table was a routine affair. It is no secret that flying fish have become a scare commodity in the seas off Barbados. This is the time of the year, Eastertide, when flying fish is sought after in keeping with rich Bajan tradition. Flying fish (fish) and coucou remains a popular dish on Good Friday.

The BU household has many fond memories of eating flying fish prepared the old time way; de tail push in de mout and heavily seasoned, oftentimes with the homemade variety. The delight derived from searching in hidden spaces for fish secreted away behind the gills or chewing the tail fin until it disappears in dust seems to be a tradition now forgotten like most things Bajan.

We now live in times when it is common to see a long parade of cars at the drive-thrus, whether KFC or Chefette fast food restaurants. Thankfully BU household’s table come tomorrow will continue to cling to the Bajan tradition of eating fish (flying fish) and coucou at lunch time.