By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org AGRICULTURE minister Larry Cartwright claims thousands of Bahamians will be affected by the illegal depletion of crawfish. Warning that those breaking fisheries laws will be "prosecuted to the full extent of the law", agriculture and marine resources minister Larry Cartwright said the continual illegal removal of undersized crawfish will deplete populations, damaging "an essential component" of the Bahamian economy. At a press conference at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources yesterday, Mr Cartwright said some 9,000 Bahamians depend on the crawfish industry which "significantly contributes" to the country's economy, however harvesting and selling undersized crawfish prior to them reproducing can have a dramatic affect on resources. He said: "The practice of harvesting undersized crawfish present a clear and present danger to the crawfish industry. This practice if unchecked will lead to the eventual depletion of the stock." According to Mr Cartwright, it is estimated that the crawfish industry generates between $60 and $70 million annually and has a direct link to tourism, which is often purchased by visitors. Particularly persons in the Family Islands that work on fishing vessels and in processing plants, as well as buying stations owners are "heavily dependent" on crawfish as their income, he said. While Mr Cartwright could not provide exact numbers, he said over the last several months a number of persons have been arrested, particularly in the northern Bahamas for harvesting undersized crawfish. 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.