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Dominicans Accused Of Illegally Fishing Crawfish On Daily Basis

By KHRISNA VIRGIL kvirgil@tribunemedia.net THE Bahamas' crawfish industry is illegally fished 365 days a year by Dominicans claiming to be engineers carrying millions of dollars in seafood outside of the country, a Potter's Cay Dock fisherman claimed yesterday. The fisherman who wished to remain anonymous said: "Right now, we not only have Bahamians fishing in our waters, we have year-round poachers and mini-ships. "Bigger boats are out there who have 10-15 Dominicans who say they are engineers but are taking all the crawfish." According to the fisherman, when the "so-called engineers" use industrial compressors while fishing, "they don't care what they get, big or small. The crawfish is theirs to keep." He said a lot of the confiscated seafood is seen on dinner tables, instead of being donated to charitable organisations. The fisherman was responding to Agriculture Minister Larry Cartwright's warning to persons breaking fisheries laws. Mr Cartwright said all persons who do so will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, the fisherman said Mr Cartwright needs to look at the bigger picture, of an industry that is also biased. He said: "If I get catch out there with undersized crawfish, they will throw the book at me, but if you is Mr John Doe, it will be a slap on the wrist or you might not even be charged. "If you charge me and you fine me $10,000, make sure I pay that money. If it goes for me, it should go for someone else too." Another fisherman, "Rasta Willie", said Mr Cartwright's remarks couldn't have come at a better time. He said the government needs to work on a screening process while crawfish are harvested. "Such a delicacy in our country," he said, "we have to safeguard it by protecting the species when they are young. If the species were to ever be deceased at a young age, you'll never have no more." On Monday, Mr Cartwright added that efforts will be continued to monitor such illegal activity. "I wish to remind the public that the Fisheries Regulations state that no person shall take, have in his possession or sell any crawfish which measures less that three and a quarter inches from the base of the horn to the end of the jacket or which, if he tail is severed, has a tail measurement of less that five and one half inches, not including any protruding muscle," he said. Mr Cartwright explained that in order to protect and sustain crawfish populations, laws have been enacted to place a minimum size limit on their harvesting, to ensure at least spawning or reproductive season before crawfish can be legally caught. He said all food stores, restaurants and other buyers of undersized crawfish should be reminded it is an offence to possess crawfish under the minimum limit. "All fishers are advised to cease and desist from the practice of taking, buying and processing undersized crawfish forthwith or face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law." Mr Cartwright assured the public that the Department of Marine Resources and its enforcement partners, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force are continually monitoring activities in Bahamian waters and will take all necessary measures to ensure fisheries regulations are enforced.

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