The Bridgetown Fish Market sits back slightly from the hustle and bustle of the Princess Alice Highway that runs from the Deep Water Harbour into the city. Under its sprawling roof and stationed within its adjacent square stalls are the heartbeats of the market itself – the fish vendors and fish boners who welcome the catch and prepare it each day for their buyers.
Mrs. Greaves, in her powder-blue dress that’s slightly fraying at the edges, is one of the oldest fish boners still active. She is part of a uniquely Barbadian culture where the skill of removing hundreds of bones from flying fish in a couple of minutes is down to a fine art.
Mrs. Greaves was born into a family of 14 children – 13 girls and one boy – and recalls being “one of the ones in the middle – not the oldest, not the youngest.”
“I grew up right here in town,” she says, and she peers over the grey frame of her glasses, lifts her eyebrows and nods pointedly towards the city. “My father was a fisherman, and he would go fishing in what they used to call a “day boat” (a small wind-driven sailboat of the pre-1960’s era) that would go out in the morning and return in the afternoon.”
“And it was the old people who taught me how to bonefish.”
“I would come down and bonefish after school when I was a very young girl” she remembers, “we used to work hard for an honest dollar.”
In fact, the old Bridgetown Fish market was situated about 100 meters to the south of where the present new facility lies, and today the fisherfolk can bask in the modernization of their surroundings. Each stall has tiled counter-tops, individual sinks and taps, and well-planned drainage.
But maybe the single most crucial element which helped the Barbados Fishing industry to become the thriving and well-established sector that it is today was the introduction of wide-spread cold storage and refrigeration during the 80’s and 90’s.
For before this, “fish-boners” and fish vendors like Mrs. Greaves would have to work late into the night, walking the dimly-lit town streets and country roads, trying to sell their fish – for there were no readily available cold storage facilities for them to utilize.
Today at the market you can get red snapper, shark, billfish, dolphin, kingfish, barracuda, and flying fish all year round. Mrs. Greaves and others sell their fish by the pound at very reasonable prices, ready-boned and ready to fry, bake, or season.
Article is written in 2004 and compliments of “Ins and Outs of Barbados” Magazine