By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business reporter
THE MINISTER of Agriculture and Fisheries yesterday said he was pushing to “stiffen” penalties levied against illegal poachers, noting that the Defence Force needed to be “sufficiently equipped” to tackle the issue.
Speaking with Tribune Business while in Acklins, V. Alfred Gray said he wanted to increase the penalty on illegal poachers to $250,000, along with increased jail time and the confiscation of boats and equipment.
“We are doing our best to prevent poaching, but until the Defence Force is equipped sufficiently we will continue to do our best. Hopefully we will be able to prevent it as much as possible, if not eliminate it. We need some more equipment to challenge the tide of poaching,” said Mr Gray.
Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance head, Adrian LaRoda, recently told Tribune Business that the Bahamas must play a greater role in global fisheries management, and warned that the failure to combat illegal poaching could devastate this nation’s exports in a similar manner to what had happened to Belize.
He was referencing the first major sanctions by the European Commission on nations that allow illegal fishing operations to carry on under their countries’ flags. Fish imports from Belize, Guinea and Cambodia are to be banned from the European Union (EU) as a result. Three more countries have been warned their imports are in danger.
“I’m still pursuing stiffer penalties. I have approached all of the stakeholders to accept that we are going to stiffen the penalty up to $250,000, together with confiscating the boats and equipment of the poachers. We should make a big dent in that. Soon, and very soon, everyone will know that we are serious about what we are doing,” said Mr Gray.