By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMIAN fishermen have waged war on Dominican poachers fishing in Bahamian waters ever since one of their own was shot in the neck by the trespassers.
Speaking with The Tribune, Adrian La-roda, president of the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance, said Bahamian fishermen are so “fed up” with Dominican poachers that if the Defence Force had not caught 50 of the illegals this weekend, “there would have been an altercation”.
“The Fishers Alliance has been for a long time calling for the RBDF to step up patrols in the southern Bahamas, but we feel like we are being ignored. While we are encouraged by this latest arrest, they need to go further and arrest other vessels. Trust me it is best that the RBDF caught those guys, Bahamian fishermen are fed up. One of the fishermen was just shot by Dominican poachers, these men are now looking for revenge and some type of action will happen. They are not taking it anymore. This was the last straw. The fishermen have been pushed over the edge, we have been asking for help for so long and haven’t gotten any. Something serious is going to happen, very soon.”
Local fisherman, Darron Sweeting, said he was shot in neck by Dominican poachers last month when he and his crew tried to “run them” out of Bahamian waters.
“On November 27, I was out fishing with a crew of six, when we saw four Dominican vessels east of Cay Lobos. We ran them off the bank and two of the boats opened fire on us. I got a flesh wound in the neck from one of the pellets, but we kept chasing them until we got close to Cuba so we turned around and came home.”
“We are sick of them coming here. We spotted 150 of their skiffs fishing in the water, in addition to bigger boats that are between 60 - 100 feet. Now we are taking matters into our own hands. Fishing is how we live. It is how we feed our children and our families and we let these men come over here illegally and kill our fishing grounds. In about three years there will be nothing for us to fish. They aren’t scared anymore, years ago they didn’t have weapons, but now they are armed. But we are not backing down if the RBDF won’t help us, we will help ourselves.”
The Alliance’s comments come after 33 Dominicans, suspected of poaching, evaded capture by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force over the weekend when they were spotted fishing illegally in waters near Cay Lobos.
According to Defence Force officials, the poachers were a part of a group of 50 who have been fishing illegally in Bahamian waters since last month.
Captain Tellis Bethel, Deputy Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, said RBDF officers arrested 17 Dominicans on a 70-foot fishing vessel, but the 33 poachers who were on smaller skiffs, headed for the Cuban boarder to avoid capture.
Captain Bethel said it was too early to say how much the confiscated fish and crawfish were worth, but, he said, it was a “significant find.”