Name: Dipok Das
Type: Street vendor – fish seller
bq: Tell us about your journey
Dipok Das: I started off as a fisherman in Bangladesh, where I had to lend a hand to support my big family with four brothers and three sisters. We were striving to keep up with our income and meanwhile keeping our eyes opened for better opportunities to make a living. Fortunately, my elder brother got a chance to come to Qatar and ended up being a fish seller. A few years later, he brought me here and since then, I’ve also been involved in this business. I’ve been here for four years now and every day I put in a lot of hours, starting in the morning from 8 am to 2 pm and then again from 6 pm until around 1 am.
bq: Let us in on some of the details of this business -how do you get your supply? Do you own boats yourself? What kind of regulations are there?
DS: Practically all the fishing boats are owned by Qataris and they in turn hire people to catch fish. It is also mandatory for them to stay on the boat while these activities are being carried out*. This is in accordance with the governmental regulations regarding fishery. Of course a fishing license is mandatory for commercial fishing as well.
Regarding the supply itself – fishermen come to us vendors at the Corniche and we buy the fish from them, which we then in turn sell to our customers.
*In case of a Qatari owning more boats or being unable to be on-board, he can appoint a representative to take his place. That representative needs to be a Qatari national.
bq: What are the techniques used to catch these fish?
DS: They use a variety of fishing methods, including gillnet, large wire traps (locally named gargoor), small gargoor, and hook-and-line. Many boats use a combination of fishing gear. The most widely used trap is Gargoor that targets groupers, emperors and grunts. Usually, they go to the deep sea to catch fish and for this, they start their journey at 1pm and come back at 8 pm. And when the boat is overloaded with fish, the fishermen sell their catch to the traders.
bq: What measures are being taken by the government to ensure the safety of fishermen?
DS: The coast guard always monitors fishing activities; they have guidelines for the fishermen, which inform them of risky fishing zones. For this particular reason, some areas are restricted for fishing, and the coast guard always keeps its eye on the fishing boats at a number of search points to prevent any such violation. Moreover, the coast guard also warns the fishermen to keep track of the weather forecast and adopt safety measures before heading out.
bq: Do you need to pay rent for using this space?
DS: No, I don’t need to pay any rent for this space, but I have to provide a monthly fee of QR 500 to my sponsor.
bq: How about prices – let’s say in comparison to the fish market?
DS: You know fresh food is always in demand, as it tastes better than frozen goods. I sell a wide range of freshly caught local seafood and as mentioned, supplied directly by local fishermen. Though I always try to offer the best price to my customers, sometimes prices are a little bit higher than the frozen fish found at the Doha fish market.
bq: And financially? How is it going?
DS: My average income is QR 2000 per month, though it’s full of uncertainty, it varies every month. Sometimes it even drops to a mere QR 1000. The amount that I earn is not very high, but it’s enough for me. I cannot say anything in particular about other vendors but with my experience, I think they do get enough for their living as well. As my fish are always fresh, it’s important that I sell-out each day and thankfully, I have many regular customers.
Bq: What about your costs of living?
DS: There are eight of us living in one room and sharing the rent, which costs QR 2000 per month. Also, we cook food ourselves on a rotating basis. So, on average I need to spend a total of QR 500 for food and accommodation.
bq: Are you satisfied with your current situation?
DS: Though the amount I earn from this business is satisfactory, it’s however a very tough job as I need to put in long hours under the open sky, and as you are aware, weather conditions in Qatar are harsh. Working in such circumstances is of course, very exhausting.
bq: What are your future plans?
DS: I always wanted to be a fisherman here, but I wasn’t able to convince my sponsor to go into this business. If I could have been a fisherman, it would have been more profitable. I am, therefore, waiting for an opportunity to persuade my sponsor to start it.
bq: Do you have fun working as a vendor?
DS: Well, when I am tired, I can take time off and I try to enjoy my time when I get a break. I have many friends here and all are from the same country. We share our joys and sorrows, earn money and have fun, all at the same time.