Fishermen ‘ride out the storm’ of high fuel costs


Tribune Business Editor

Bahamian fishermen yesterday said they have no choice but “to ride out the storm” of high fuel prices amid hopes that crawfish prices for the fast-approaching season can provide some offset.

Keith Carroll, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance’s (BCFA) vice-president, told Tribune Business that some fishermen - especially those that operate smaller dinghies as a well as a parent or ‘mother’ vessel - were likely incurring fuel costs of $50,000 and upwards with no sign of any significant global oil price easing ahead of the August 1 crawfish season start.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “We’re just hoping the cost of fuel starts to go down. There’s nothing we can do. We hope the price of lobster stays up to help offset fuel costs. You never know what the price of crawfish is going to be until the season opens up. We don’t know if it will be $1 or $20. It depends on what the market is. We ended up at $21 last year, and started at $18.50. We had a good season.

“But if the price of lobster drops, and the lobsters are not as plentiful as last year, that will affect all the fishermen. We’re just like everybody else. We have to go out and make enough to keep us living. We have to do what we have to do. We have to ride out the storm like everyone else until the world gets back to normal. Whatever happens, we can only hope for the best. That’s all.”

Mr Carroll said there was nothing The Bahamas, as a non-oil producing country and with relatively little scale, can do to combat high global prices which remained at $111.2 and $117 per barrel last night on the West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude indices respectively.

“One of my boats is out now on a fishing trip, and it cost me for diesel alone $13,000 to fill up,” he revealed. “That doesn’t include costs like food, water and motor oil, just diesel. I put that in, but don’t know if I will make it back. Last year, the per gallon price was $5 something. It was still high, and probably cost me $9,000-$10,000. Now it’s up to $13,000.” Diesel’s per gallon price in many Family Islands is now over $7.

“We just put the fuel in and go fish,” Mr Carroll said. “Sometimes you make it, you make a profit, and sometimes you don’t. If you worried about it, you would not even go out. You put the fuel in, go and work hard and do what you have to do. If you sit down and think about it, you wouldn’t go.”

He added that he was fortunate to just operate his fishing vessels with diesel, given his preference for lobster traps rather than diving for catches. Those in the latter category, which rely on dinghies and smaller craft, have to also carry regular gasoline as well as diesel to fuel those vessels.

“You have guys that have dinghies who have to carry 3,000-4,000 gallons of gas at $7 a gallon. That’s at least $21,000 for gas, 2,000 gallons of diesel at $12,000-$13,000. Some of those boats have $50,000 in gas and diesel alone,” Mr Carroll said. “Some boats are going to carry more; they will probably carry more gas than that. 

“It may be more, it may be less. The bigger boats will carry 2,000-3,000 gallons of gas and 2,000-3,000 gallons of diesel, plus have to fill up. It ain’t cheap. We just have to hope that one day the world gets back to normal with how it used to be.”

Paul Maillis, the National Fisheries Association’s (NFA) secretary, told Tribune Business told that the costs of a four-day trip had more than doubled since he began commercial fishing two years ago. What once cost $700-$1,000 is now in the $2,000 region, largely due to fuel for his 150 gallon twin diesel engine boat, and extracting “a significant chunk of change” from the gross value of a $5,000 to $7,000 catch.

Pointing out that the price of diesel when he started was pegged at $3.60 per gallon, he added that it now stands at $7.31 with VAT - a 100 percent increase.