By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) President Adrian LaRoda has raised concerns over the proper handling of fishery goods and vessels that have been confiscated in Bahamian waters by Defence Force officials.
Demanding greater transparency and accountability at every level of the process, Mr LaRoda insisted that there are many questions which need answered.
He said officials at respective levels of government must clarify what is done with illegally caught seafood and the fishing boats used - whether it be auctioning, scrap metal usage or conversion for use by the state.
“I have reason to believe,” Mr LaRoda said, “we aren’t getting an accurate
account of what is confiscated from those boats or in fact if the procedures are being followed properly. Have there been instances where drugs are taken from those boats? And what about the cases where the vessels are confiscated and are to be auctioned off? These are things we need to know. The public should be made aware.
“In theory, when a confiscated boat is going to be auctioned, there should be an announcement in the the papers. It should state when, where and give other details. But that has not happened in years. So we have no idea what is being done with the boats. Who is being allowed to buy these vessels?
“There are further questions regarding whether confiscated seafood goes out on consignment or if vendors are being allowed to bid. The government needs to make a full disclosure of such details.”
And as fishermen put pressure on the government to better police the Bahamas’ waters from Dominican poachers, Mr LaRoda said he strongly supports firearm usage as a form of protection.
Last week, fishermen at the Potter’s Cay Dock said they were placed at the mercy of poachers who are over fishing and infringing on the rights of Bahamians.
“I support our fisherman being armed and the convention requires that every sea-going vessel be armed,” Mr LaRoda said. “The fight against piracy is a reality out there. The BCFA is asking all fishermen to be armed because not only is there a huge possibility that they will have to defend themselves, but there also lies a chance that other fishermen might need defending or the country.
“When we are out at sea, we are normally outnumbered. Many times there are 40 to 70 men on board a Dominican vessel and only about five on a Bahamian boat. Those Dominicans are keen on using intimidation tactics coupled with the use of illegal fishing apparatus in the form of spare guns.”
He urged the government to get serious about the cracking down on poachers whom he said are becoming increasingly dangerous.