'Irreparable Damage' Fear Over Crawfish

By NATARIO McKENZIE Tribune Business Reporter nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net THE illegal harvesting of undersized crawfish is far more prevalent among "day fisherman" than larger commercial vessels, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) president told Tribune Business yesterday, adding that this nation continued to lose millions annually to foreign poachers. Warning that the practice of harvesting undersized crawfish threatened to do "irreparable damage" to the marine environment in the long term, Adrian LaRoda admitted that while this was a concern, it was far less common among the larger commercial fishing vessels. He said: "It is a major concern but it doesn't happen a lot among the properly regulated and licensed commercial fishing vessels. Where you find a lot of that illegal harvesting taking place is with the regular day fishermen, someone who is going to go out and get some product to try and make a few dollars because they want to get quicker return. "In the long-term, that is doing irreparable damage to the whole marine environment. It's a concern for all of us, but it is not primarily done by the commercial fishermen." Mr LaRoda added: "Commercial fishermen really don't have a market for it. They can't take it to any of the fish houses, and if you take any damaged or non-regulated product to the fish house they will tell you they are not taking it, so these guys operate within their boundaries. "You have the regular day fishers who get it and sell it to a restaurant, and they will buy it. That is particularly high in the Family Islands, where people go out and get crawfish - whether out of season or spawning - to cater to tourists who want a quick meal of lobster." Mr LaRoda's comments came on the heels of remarks made by Agriculture and Marine Resources minister Larry Cartwright earlier this week, who warned that the continuing illegal removal of undersized crawfish will deplete populations, damaging "an essential component" of the Bahamian economy. With regard to illegal poaching, a continual threat to the Bahamian fishing industry, Mr LaRoda said that conservatively, millions of dollars were being lost each year. "It is in the million of dollars, conservatively speaking," he added. "The normal poaching vessel has a freezer capacity of 20,000 pounds of product, and wherever they take their product they get more for it. They make four to five trips a year and that's one boat. "From our intelligence, we know there are about 20 boats here regularly. When I say regularly, I mean they fish these waters like any licensed fishing vessel would because they fish these waters all the time."


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