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Aim For 'Transparency' Over Seized Fish Stocks

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Michael Halkitis

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

WHILE questions continue to linger over confiscated fishery goods, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis says the government is working to improve its level of transparency in their processes of collection and distribution.

Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) President Adrian LaRoda recently demanded that the government reveal 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.

Mr LaRoda suggested that the current system for a country often faced with illegal poaching was insufficient. He added that records ought to be made public of the handling of confiscated fishing vessels.

Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Halkitis said his knowledge of the procedure was limited. He was only able to give small insight into the latest incident which involved a Dominican vessel intercepted near Andros about two weeks ago.

The vessel and crew were found with 9,000 lbs of mixed fish, 1,291 lbs of margaret fish, 185 lbs of Nassau grouper, 1,257 lbs of hog fish, 334 lbs of conch and 22,000 lbs of crawfish. Authorities said 8,000 lbs were undersized.

Mr Halkitis said: “With the latest seizure, we advertised to invite bids by anyone who wanted to purchase the seafood seized. I am advised that in the past, there was a rotation through the seafood companies where companies each got a chance to purchase.

“By inviting bids, we are seeking to bring more transparency to the process.”

Last week, Mr LaRoda insisted that the government needed to do better with informing the public.

“I have reason to believe 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?” he said.

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