|Fish Handling, Preservation and Processing in the Tropics: Part 2 (NRI)|
Siting of fishing communities
Before considering what facilities are needed in a modern fishing village, it is interesting to speculate about the reasons for the siting of some existing small fishing centres. If we go back far enough, of course, we arrive at the situation in which families tended to group together in villages purely for protection. People farmed and fished only for home consumption. At a somewhat later stage, specialisation in farming or fishing and trade began. It was probably at this stage, when some people became full-time or almost full-time fishermen, that the majority of fishing centres which exist nowadays first became established.
The first essential would seem to be that the fishermen should live close to the place where they expect to fish: the village would be sited somewhere close to the fishing grounds. The reasons for this are obvious: the shorter the journey to and from the grounds, the greater the proportion of the time that can be spent fishing and the shorter the time the fishermen are at risk from the elements.
Sometimes different grounds may be fished, possibly for quite different fish and with quite different gear at different times of the year. The siting of the village might then be a compromise based on ease of access to a number of different points at which fishing might take place.
A second and most important consideration as far as the fishing activity is concerned would be boat safety. The village must be sited where it is possible to ensure that the boats, which are the most expensive item owned by the fishermen, could be kept in safety when not in use. In many cases, this has meant that villages have been sited on river estuaries or in enclosed bays where the boats can be left afloat. In other cases, where suitable ports do not exist, the boats have been drawn up on beaches and this restricts the design and, more particularly, the size of the fishing vessels. In Europe, as we shall see later, quite large vessels, certainly some over 50 feet in length, have been operated from open beaches.
In some cases, the fact that suitable timber for boatbuilding was available close at hand seems to have influenced the siting of fishing centres. In other cases, however, this has had no influence at all. For example, in south Arabia, no boatbuilding materials are available and small fishing vessels, many of them less than 15 feet in length, have traditionally been imported from the Indian subcontinent. In some cases, siting appears to have been influenced by the need for suitable land on which to build housing and grow a cereal crop. In other cases, neither seems to have been an important factor. For example, many of the villages of South East Asia are built in mangrove swamps where it is difficult to erect housing, no crops can be grown and there is no supply of drinking water. The mangrove forests do however provide another important element - a supply of fuel for cooking.
The villages of south Arabia lie along sandy beaches where water can only be obtained by driving a well down 80 or 100 feet, where there is no fuel for cooking, where boats have to be imported and where there is no possibility of growing food.
The fishermen of the African lakes often establish camps on papyrus islands floating in the middle of the lake where there are no facilities of any kind. In these latter two cases, it would seem that nearness to the fishing grounds is all-important.
It might be thought that proximity to a market in which the catch could be sold profitably would be an important point. Again, this is not necessarily so: in cases where there is a good supply of fish but no nearby market, the catch has traditionally been salted and dried or smoked and dried, often for sale in markets many hundreds of miles distant.
So, while it may be difficult to establish an order of priorities for the needs of a fishing community, it becomes obvious that proximity to the fishing grounds and safe harbourage for the fishing craft are all-important.
Facilities needed at modern fish landings
Assuming that the landing is sited so that it provides ease of access to nearby fishing grounds and a safe harbourage, the next most essential feature is surely ease of access. It is important that the catch can be moved from the village to the nearest market as expeditiously as possible. The fishermen and their families also need to travel, so a road which lorries can always use, and on which bus and taxi services can run, is of first importance.
Where no access road can be provided, access may be possible by water. Many fishing villages operate on the basis of a ferry service. The provision of roads is expensive and the ntervention of fisheries department headquarters may be needed before roads can be provided. The remainder of the points listed here should be within the compass of an extension service. One of the prime duties of an extension service is to see that facilities are provided for fishermen and their families.
Facilities which would be required at every landing include:
1. Bunkerage: Provision must be made for fuel; often both diesel and petrol will be required. Where possible, these should be made available alongside a point at which the boats can draw direct from a pump. Where there is a heavy duty on fuel, it may be possible to arrange nationally that fishermen draw duty-free fuel on the grounds that they are performing an essential public service in providing fish.
2. Repair of fishing vessels: Facilities must be made available for this; they may be of the simplest possible kind. Facilities should preferably be available for drawing the boats out on to hard ground; concrete standing makes for easier working and it is preferable that the vessels should be raised so that it is easier for men to work underneath them. At its simplest, this facility can be provided by means of a sled running on greased ways. More complicated systems include the use of wheeled trolleys on railway lines, even proper slipways. Winches, whether hand or power-operated, are also extremely useful.
3. Engine maintenance: This is a high priority. The more commonly needed spares should be kept to hand; trained mechanics should be available and a small simple workshop should be provided. At the small fish landings, there is no need to provide a workshop with power tools. It goes without saying that the extension service should encourage the fishermen to restrict their purchase of engines to those for which spares are readily available within the country.
4. Fishing gear: Except at the very smallest fish landings, it is useful if the fishermen can buy some of their fishing gear requirements without travelling to a nearby town. The advantages of co-operative purchase are well-known and obvious.
5. Fishing gear repair: It is often found that even the simplest facilities for this are not available. All that is required is an open space with a clean, hard, dry floor and a roof to protect the gear and the men working on it from the weather. Where a village is strung out along a river, it may be impracticable to provide a central facility.
6. Food and water: Ordinary everyday living requires that these should both be available. The extension service should see that every village has a properly designed, hygienically operated market facility. Water is needed both ashore and at sea. Life for everyone becomes much easier when a piped supply becomes available, so that water is on tap instead of having to be carried from a well. In the earlier stages of development, stand pipes can be provided at intervals in a village street: later on, it may be possible to take the water into the houses so that individual piped supplies are available.
7. Medical facilities and schooling: These should be available in all but the very smallest landings. Where these cannot be provided within the village itself, it may be possible for the extension service to assist with the organisation of transport to school, and to arrange visits by a travelling dispensary and provision of an ambulance for emergency cases.
8. Recreation: Although this is not necessarily the most important feature, some facilities should be provided if possible. These may include such things as badminton courts, tennis courts, football pitches and a small library. A Community Centre in which meetings can be held, films shown and lectures arranged is obviously useful. Where people cannot afford their own television set, it may be possible to provide a shared one for a community. Regrettably little use has been made of television for educational purposes in developing countries.
9. Fish handling, processing, preservation and marketing: These are the facilities with which we are primarily concerned. The type of facilities needed depends primarily on whether the fishery is based on selling fish fresh or frozen, or in some dried or smoked form. Often, of course, the fishermen from a particular landing will sell their catch in a variety of forms.
Correct fish handling starts in the boat the moment the fish are caught. However, preparations for proper handling must begin before the craft puts to sea. If fish are to be landed in good condition, they must either be brought ashore within a few hours of death or they must be chilled to the temperature of melting ice as quickly as possible. An ever increasing number of vessels are carrying ice to sea; in Europe, and more particularly in the Arctic fisheries, the fish room or fish hold was often uninsulated. In the tropics, it would make no sense at all to carry ice to sea without very good insulation; ice is invariably expensive and everything possible should be done to avoid loss through melting. Often ice is seen being carried on open lorries; in these circumstances, money pours on to the road. Ice should be loaded into the fishing boat as quickly as possible; the ice-making plant or machine should always be as near as possible to the point at which the fishing boats berth. In most modern installations a flake ice machine is sited on a jetty so that ice can be shot straight into the fishing boats. Where this is impossible or where an existing plant, possibly a block ice plant, supplies the fishery, there should be a well-insulated (and possibly refrigerated) ice store close to the berthing point of the vessels. Quite satisfactory arrangements can be made for storing ice very cheaply by packing it in sawdust under cover. If block ice is used, an ice crusher or breaker should be provided if possible; sometimes fishermen prefer to carry unbroken ice to sea because losses through melting are then less.
Often fishing boats are washed down with water from the river or harbour in which they are berthed. This defeats the object of washing since such water is invariably heavily laden with bacteria, often food poisoning bacteria, and the vessel may in effect be dirtier after washing than before. A piped water supply, the water containing free chlorine, should be provided wherever possible. If this cannot be done, the final cleaning down should be carried out in the open sea, as oceanic sea water should be tolerably clean.
The inside of the fish hold should be thoroughly scrubbed with water containing detergent and given a final rinse in water containing plenty of free chlorine. Boxes or tubs of some kind are needed for removing the fish from the boats. Aluminium and plastic containers have many advantages over wooden ones but cannot always be afforded. Whatever containers are provided, facilities should also be made available for properly cleaning these. A good scrub in detergent-loaded water, followed by a soaking in water containing free chlorine, provides the best results.
Where quantities have to be moved, wheeled trolleys of some kind should be provided. These may be rubber tyred vehicles which can be moved over almost any surface; in some cases, railways are laid so that simple iron wheeled trucks can be used. They are often manipulated manually; they may equally well be drawn by winches or tractors and, in some cases, fork-lift trucks may be the best answer.
Nowadays, the advantages of boxing fish on board (ease of handling, ease of sorting and better condition on landing) are usually recognised. Unless the fish can always be moved expeditiously from the landing point, a refrigerated, or at least well-insulated, chill store should be provided. There may also often be a need for one or more packing sheds.
The larger landings should be provided with a fish market - a point at which fish can conveniently be auctioned.
At some landings, facilities will be needed for salting and drying fish and for the storage of the dried products.
All too often the catch is handled ashore by men who have to wade through surf or yards of muddy foreshore to the detriment of both the crew and the catch. Obviously, where possible, facilities should be provided so that boats can come alongside a jetty or wharf so that the catch can be handled ashore as quickly as possible. Either the boat's gear can be used to land boxes or tubs of fish, or small cranes can be provided on the jetty. Neither pumping nor the use of elevators is usually practicable at the smaller landings.
Once a jetty is available, of course, not only the handling of the fish but also the provision of other facilities becomes easy. Pipelines can be laid so that fuel and water are available at a number of points and fishing gear is easily loaded into the vessels or put ashore. The provision of good facilities for berthing alongside is one of the most important points in fishing village improvement.
Management of small fish landings
Almost all of the facilities so far described might be in private ownership (operated for the benefit and profit of a single owner); owned communally (operated for the joint benefit of a number of people as in a co-operative society); or they might be owned publicly. Publicly-owned facilities may be provided from taxes for the common welfare and good, or they may be used by individuals on payment of a statutory fee.
Harbour dues are often lower for fishermen than for other users; in some places, fishermen pay no dues. Berthing fees are usually charged on overall length of the vessel, which seems fair since the longer vessel uses more quay than a shorter one. Again fishing vessels are often exempted. Where fish are auctioned, a statutory percentage of the value is often charged. Where fish are put in chill storage, there is usually a standard charge per day; where fish are frozen and held in cold storage, similar arrangements apply.
A common arrangement is for most of the communally used facilities to be publicly or commonly owned; for example, the jetty, quay or wharf and the auction point or market. Other facilities, however, such as the ice plant, packing sheds, factories, and repair and maintenance facilities are usually operated as private businesses. The advantages of co-operative society ownership and management are as well-known as the difficulties involved in establishing a co-operative society amongst fishermen.
Whatever arrangement is made for management of the landing's facilities, someone should be in a position of sufficient authority to ensure that the common practices required for good hygiene are observed both to protect the consumer and to make certain that the fishermen get the best possible prices for their catches.