Fisherfolk haul in cutlassfish for Chinese market


A buyer offloads a crate of cutlassfish destined from Chinese markets. –

Scores of fisherfolk from across the country have crowded Alcan Bay and other areas off Chaguaramas hunting cutlassfish for the last three months.

The bounty for the sea is being gobbled up by Chinese merchants who believe the shiny coating has medicinal benefits to combat diabetes.

Fisherfolk say on average they catch about 200,000 pounds of cutlassfish every year and most of it ends up in the Far East.

Fisherman Marlon Brown packs his crate with cutlassfish in Chaguaramas on December 31, 2020. PHOTOS BY AYANNA KINSALE –

Marabella fisherman Anthony Silverthon, 41, he usually gets between $7 to $8 a pound and journeyed to Chaguaramas in October as he and close to about 100 other vessels hunted schools of cutlassfish

The fish which is spawning its eggs in rocky bays are caught when they venture out to feed on Jousha, a small fish usually used for bait, not far off the shore.

Silverthon said the Chinese buyers usually scrape off the shiny silver-like coating on the cutlassfish which does not have any scales and sometimes salt the meat and sell it off as saltfish in Chinese groceries. He said only now locals were seeing the benefits of cutlassfish which were previously discarded by seasoned fisherfolk.

Another generation fisherman, Chris Maharaj, said he had been hunting the cutlassfish near the shores in San Fernando before he ventured to Carenage. He said fishermen from Oropouche, Claxton Bay and Orange Valley were also among the group catching cutlassfish with hooks.

Maharaj said the open seas were not suitable for fishing right now as the water was too rough and the cutlassfish was proving to be a viable option as they were getting a sure price from the Chinese buyers.

He said he intends to stay in the west until the fish moves as he is a dedicated fisherman who worked hard for a living.

According to the University of the West Indies online guide to animals in Trinidad and Tobago says the fish, also known as the largehead hairtail, is a marine fish which has a band-like body, is elongated and compressed, with plain silver colour.

An online article from the Straits Times, said cutlassfish is one of the most popular fish, known as daiyu, for the Chinese.

The Chinese believe that it can reduce cholesterol and is also anti-carcinogenic.

Fishermen await buyers to purchase their cutlassfish in Chaguaramas. –

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