The New Carenage Fish Market: “A Square Peg in A Round Hole”

Last year the government of Trinidad & Tobago announced the opening of a massive fish market in Carenage. The project costed roughly around $28m to complete. The market was promised to possess more entertainment and vibrancy than that of the typical market. However, for those who pass the new market often, the exact opposite seems to be the case. The new market appears to be quiet, still, and empty. This can be further seen when one compares the new market to the traditional market of L’anse Mitan. L’anse Mitan is a basic market that is closer to Glencoe than it is to Carenage. This market does not have the quality of equipment that is to be found in the new market. This then may seem somewhat baffling, but after visiting both markets I have come to realise that they actually have a lot more in common than I originally thought. Both markets are on the sea’s shore, they both sell fish, they both showcase fishes and boats, and they are both well lit. What however separates these two markets by miles is the manner in which all of these things are done. And this seems to be the big gap that makes the two possess completely counter environments.

The new Market is a modern industrial building whilst the older market is a beachfront bare basics market. In the new market one can see wonderful paintings of fishes, boats and the sea, all under sparkling LED lights. In the old market one can see the very same fish, boats, and sea. Only here, when one sees them, they are not on a canvas, but instead they are actually there, under no LED, but under the light of the sun. It is for this reason that the new market whilst it may be new and grand in its structure gives the vibe of being a knock off of an actual market. It seems to be something you’d find in the city. Ironically though the new market possesses state-of-the-art facilities it does not seem be doing a good job in fulfilling its function of providing an entertaining atmosphere.

When one visits the new market in Carenage one leaves the salt-breeze of an island and steps instantly into a city. This is experienced in two things mainly. Firstly, the lack of ole talk, fisherman’s tales, and healthy argumentation that is found. And secondly in the aroma of the market, which is closer to that of a mall than it is to that of a boat.

After experiencing this I spoke with the only vendor operating in the new market, I discovered that he did not have the answer as to why this place was so vacant and dull. He said the facilities are great and affordable, yet for some reason no one can account for why it is that the place is so dismal. Another fella thinks this is a case of “square peg in round hole”. This opinion seems ever so true and can be seen when one makes the five-minute drive to the L’anse Mitan fish market which is just 5 minutes away.

In L’anse Mitan I discovered that persons operating out of this market believe that the new fish market is in fact selling an equal amount of fish as they are. Actually, the vendor to whom I spoke told me that they sometimes operate a booth in the new Carenage fish market.  When I asked why it is that more people always seemed to be present in L’anse Mitan the response was: “here it have people liming, down there it have none of that. So when you always seeing people here its limers”. This was reaffirmed as the vendor says there are no differences in sales depending on which region they sell in, be it L’anse Mitan or Carenage. “People don’t stick around down there, they come, buy and leave. Or even sometimes people does call and order before they come.” She said with reference to the Carenage region.  Therefore it has become clearer to me now that it is in fact the environment that was attracting the crowd to L’anse Mitan.

After my encounters in both markets the question of whether or not the Carenage fish market is experiencing the planned economic activity that it was set up to has been somewhat answered. However, what has become clear is that the modern style infrastructure does not seem to be appropriate to the culture surrounding the fisherman’s trade. It seems far more fit to be placed in the city, where pictures and LED are forced to replicate something that is not found there. But where real boat, sun, sea, and sand can be found we need not photograph them and stick them up on the very concrete that is deleting them from our sight. And because of this reality one must come back to the 28-million-dollar question; was this the right approach to take for our fish-based and tourism industries? Could a more local looking market not have been built without the expense of reducing the quality of the facility itself? Was this a top down approach that merely rejected the sanity of the simple island life? I await an answer.

James David Lanser is the editor and founder of 868 Media. He is a 21-year-old Trinidadian born writer and journalist whose work typically explores social, economic, political and cultural themes. To contact James, you can email: