By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government has plans to run an aggressive campaign in the Dominican Republic in a bid to discourage poaching in Bahamian waters.
Poaching by Dominicans, a major concern for Bahamian fishermen and the government, is slated to be among discussions when ministers meet with Republic officials next week.
The ministerial delegation includes Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, Bernard Nottage, National Security Minister and Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V Alfred Gray. They will return on November 1.
“A myriad of issues will be discussed,” said Mr Gray, “including the problem of Dominicans fishing in our waters and what resolutions we might be able to find to cause the elimination of that poaching or to certainly reduce it.”
The government’s plan, Mr Gray said, has now taken on a three pronged approach since fishermen first explained that the fisheries industry was being endangered at the hands of the Dominicans.
“We are going to seek the government’s assistance in bringing the problems of fishing to its (Dominican Republic) nationals.
“If the (Dominican) government is willing to assist in that regard then we as a government will seek to use our best efforts to have a public relations campaign in the Dominican Republic so that the television, the newspapers (or) whatever means of getting the message is out to them.
“The Bahamas is very serious about our fisheries and the protection of it. The penalties and the confiscations which attend the catching of fisherman will be very stiff. We want them to know that this is our livelihood and we need their cooperation in protecting it,” Mr Gray said.
The Christie administration has taken measures to curb poaching by foreign fishermen in Bahamian waters.
More than two months ago, Mr Mitchell announced to parliamentarians that the government had banned permits to non Bahamian fishermen.
At the time Mr Mitchell said: “The run up to the campaign saw us in the islands listening to fishermen in the Bahamas complaining about unfair competition of poachers from the Dominican Republic. In the spring of this year, the previous cabinet made a decision that a delegation should go to the Dominican Republic and speak to the government in regard to this and progressive measure would be taken by the government to deal with this matter,” he said.
“Upon us coming to office this cabinet made a decision too and you heard the Prime Minister actually say it on his feet that this was a matter of priority to stop this as an adjunct of that what appears to be a use by sundry to get work permits for non nationals under one guise, but in fact they are doing something else.
“The decision was then made against that backdrop, and the complaint of our fisherman, to review these work permits.”
The government further pledged to pump more resources into the Royal Bahamas Defence Force that would allow officers to better patrol Bahamian waters.