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Only low income families permitted to sell fish ‘outside’ in coolers, says DOH

Specific types of ice-tray stalls to sell fish to be built at Fagatogo Marketplace

As part of its plan to help develop local fisheries, the government is looking to build stalls next to the Fagatogo Marketplace where local fishermen can sell their catch.

This is according to Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele, who points out that local fishermen are currently selling their catch at the marketplace free of charge.

Lafaele shared the government’s plan during a Senate Communications/Fisheries/Marine and Wildlife Committee hearing this week after some senators voiced health concerns over local residents selling fish on the roadside. Testifying at the hearing was Health director Tuileama Motusa Nua, whose department has jurisdiction over the safety of food being sold to the community.

Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli A. Godinet told ASG officials that he is pleased and very happy to see local fishermen selling their catch at the marketplace, but there are others selling on roadsides and this becomes a concern when it affects the health of the community, with people purchasing fish that has been exposed on the side of the road for a long period of time.

Lafaele revealed the government’s plan to construct stalls next to the marketplace — in the area next to the stream where the large banyan tree was located. He said the stalls will be specifically for local fishermen to sell their catch.

The DOC director told Samoa News several months ago that the government was looking to build a two-story facility around the same area — next to the stream — with the second floor to be used for office spaces and the first floor as an open fish market, similar to those in Apia and Honolulu.

At the Senate hearing, Lafaele said this was the initial plan, but it is time consuming and will require a lot of money.

The plan now is to build stalls that will feature ice trays for the fish. Currently, he said, ice is placed on steel tables for the fish, but there are specific types of ice-trays for fish when they are put up for display.

He revealed that local fishermen are currently able to sell their catch at the marketplace free of charge, while DOC provides tents, ice, as well as tables to display the fish.

Lafaele didn’t provide any further details.

Regarding the roadside sale of fish, Lafaele said he is not really sure if there is any law banning such a practice, but he agrees with concerns regarding the health of the community as far as buying fish from the side of the road.

Motusa explained that there is no law banning the selling of fresh fish on the roadside and therefore, DOH does not have the authority to stop such sales. However, he said, DOH has the authority to ensure that the low income families selling fish on the roadside have coolers — with ice — to keep the fish ‘fresh’.

He added that DOH inspectors continue to visit these roadside sites to make sure that those selling fish have the required coolers with ice to store the fish. He said DOH is working on ensuring that fish are not displayed — hanging on a stick — by the side of road, because this attracts flies and dust.

According to the Health director, in that past, store owners have been known to place coolers in front of their businesses when fresh fish is available, as a way to entice buyers.

However, DOH has halted that practice — for stores only — but allowing low income families to sell fish out of ice coolers on the roadside.

Motusa emphasized during his comments that individuals selling fish on the roadsides are low incomes families.

At one point, he informed senators that some sellers on the roadside, are mothers with young children sitting in the background waiting for the fish to be sold.

These are low income families — “o aiga lima vaivai” — and this is probably their only means of earning a living on a daily basis, he said.