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Bahamas can be ‘global pacesetter’ over fishing

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas has an opportunity to become a “global pacesetter” in fisheries protection and preservation under proposed regulations to govern the fly fishing industry, the sector’s association president said yesterday.

Industry stakeholders participated in what was expected to be the last consultation on the regulations, which have been a source of heated debate among them over the past several weeks.

The Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, V. Alfred Gray, said he was “disturbed” by correspondence exchanged between  several industry stakeholders regarding the proposed regulations, stressing he would “rather lose one visitor than lose an entire country”.

While acknowledging the remaining divisions within the industry, Prescott Smith, the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFFIA) president, said yesterday’s consultation helped bring more clarity to the situation.

“A lot of positions were clarified. There is a lot of misinformation out there. I think people are clear that the legislation is something that is necessary in everyone’s interest, and not just special interests” Mr Smith told Tribune Business following the meeting yesterday.

“You can’t just think about laws to protect one’s individual business to the detriment of everyone else. The key issues in terms of the Association being the governing body that is recognised nationally, and also the whole issue of what they refer to as ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) anglers, while no one is opposed to it, it was noted that you have to take into consideration certain islands because of their geography and their limited flats in comparison to other islands.

“You will destroy the fisheries if people can just go out on the flats and fish as they please. Those islands that need special consideration are Acklins, Long Island, Eleuthera, Cat Island and Exuma,” added Mr Smith.

“The whole issue with fishing licenses, I think people understand the importance of a percentage of it going back into the resource. I feel that the Association should get a considerable portion of it because of the task of training new guides, educational programmes in the school, restoration of creeks, improving the marine environment and lots of education for guides, anglers and the general Bahamian population as well, and bringing to light the fact that the industry is so much more than the guides and the lodges.”

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 bone fishing 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 Bahamas can be a global pacesetter because the only country that has made close to the decisions that the Bahamas is embarking on now is Belize,” Mr Smith said.

“They don’t even have one twentieth of our resources. By us taking this initiative you are protecting the nursery system for the entire Caribbean. The Bahamas has not only the largest flats in the world but the largest concentration of mangroves in the entire western world, which means that the marine life breeding here is  replenishing so many countries around the Caribbean.

“This legislation goes a long way to say you’re thinking sustainability and preservation and sustainability,” said Mr Smith. “The BFFIA must now move swiftly in terms of the various certification manuals that need to be fine tuned.”

Comments

asiseeit 6 years, 11 months ago

Look, they can not or do not enforce the laws as they pertain to fishing right here in Nassau, what makes you think they will be able to enforce more laws? The idiots can not even just go and sit at the ramp around Nassau and let the lawbreakers come to them, you think they going out on any flats? Also who says the ones tasked at enforcing the law even KNOW the law, they at stupid as conch. As stated I see people breaking fishery laws ever time I go in the boat, within sight of the harbour patrol, you think they do anything, not a chance! It is illegal to spearfish in Nassau Harbour, I see it every day. It is illegal to spearfish closer than 200 yards from any land, I see it every day. It is illegal to spearfish or harvest conch with a compressor and you can only use the compressor in 30 to 60 feet of water during crawish season to harvest lobster. You think the patrol units know this because if they do they sure do not enforce the law.

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