By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Suggested amendments to the proposed Fly Fishing regulations are being put in a draft for Cabinet’s consideration, the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources has confirmed.
V Alfred Gray said: “The consultative process is ongoing, but we have had several sessions with all of the stakeholders and it is not yet closed.
“We are now putting together some suggested amendments to the draft, which we had before the consultation started. We will give those to the Attorney General to put in a draft for Cabinet consideration.”
The Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, and the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2015, introduce a number of changes designed to create a supervisory framework for flats fishing in the Bahamas.
This involves a set of new permit fees and stricter distinctions for foreign fishermen and foreign-owned bonefishing lodges. Concerns over the new regulations centre on the proposed requirement that all visiting fly fishermen, even experts coming to the Bahamas for decades, hire a local guide at a cost of $600 per day.
While sensitive to the need to protect Bahamian fishing guides from foreigners who come in and establish themselves in business illegally, the tourism sector is concerned that the ‘local guide stipulation’ and other proposed fees will make this nation further uncompetitive on price and encourage anglers to head to rival destinations.
The proposed regulations, which are being driven by the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA) have also been met with strong opposition from a number of lodge owners and fly fishing outfits.
Mr Gray said his ministry was working with other government agencies on the regulations. “My ministry, together with other agencies of the Government, has been involved with the process. We had the Ministry of Tourism involved, Customs and Immigration involved, and we had the Attorney General involved together with my ministry,” he said.
“It was a multi-agency effort. We are now putting together some amendments that arose out of the consultation in a draft for the Cabinet to consider. That’s where we are on that right now.”
Mr Gray indicated back in June that his Ministry was working with a three-month timeline to get the legislation to Parliament.