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Critics ‘Clouding’ New Fly Fish Regulations

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s president yesterday accused critics of “clouding” the issues surrounding proposed regulatory reforms, arguing that the success of local fishing lodges hinged on the treatment of Bahamian guides.

Addressing the industry’s annual general meeting, Prescott Smith, owner of the Stafford Creek Lodge, said the push for regulations to govern the industry had lasted for two to three decades.

“There is no industry without the guides. Many persons cloud the issue because they don’t feel for the guides. The more successful and better we treat our guides, the more successful and better the lodges will be,” said Mr Smith.

“I look forward to moving forward this legislation. When this goes to Parliament we should all be coming to celebrate, so we can say that the profession - which is an honourable one - is now legally recognised in our country.”

The Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, and the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2015, introduce a number of regulations 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 foreign­owned 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.

Mr Smith’s position is not universally shared among lodge owners. Cheryl Bastian, Swain’s Cay Fishing Lodge’s owner, said that the proposed regulations seemed to suggest that foreign lodge owners were no longer wanted in the Bahamas.

Tribune Business understands that the proposed regulations have created a divide between guides and lodge owners, with the former generally in favour of them, and the latter more against.

There is concern that the regulations, as drafted, give the impression that the Bahamas is being too protectionist and restrictive, and is being anti-foreign, while tying up access by foreign anglers in bureaucracy and red tape, not to mention increased costs.

One guide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business that while he supported the move to regulate and protect the industry, the Government should tread lightly.

“I fully support the move to regulate the industry. I understand what the Government is trying to do. There are people coming here, fishing, taking our resources and we get nothing, the Government gets nothing, we get nothing,” the guide said.

“That has to be fixed. What we don’t want to do, however, is scare away the anglers who come here sometimes twice a year, or alienate some lodge owners who have made significant investments in this country.”

Concerns were also expressed yesterday over illegal netting, with one guide stating that it was “killing the industry”  and must be addressed.

A 2010 study conducted by the Bahamas Flats Fishing Alliance estimated that the flats fishing industry has an annual economic impact of $141 million.

Comments

duppyVAT 2 years, 3 months ago

Hiring a Bahamian guide is great BUT ............. $600 per day????????? $3,000 per week??? $12,000 per month???????? $96,000 per year?????? More than the Prime Minister???

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newcitizen 2 years, 3 months ago

People who come here to bonefish are not taking the resource. They catch and release. The resource is still there and they pay for everything from food to accommodation to the airport taxes. What is this 'anonymous' guide talking about.

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happyfly 2 years, 3 months ago

Dear Mr Smith. With all due respect, it is all very well to encourage visiting fisherman to use guides. FORCING visiting fisherman to use guides however is not exactly a vote of confidence and actually more an act of desperation. It is also playing with fire when you start trying to manipulate a bunch of wealthy, free spirited fly fishermen

You may have a decent amount of goodwill and a good amount of loyal guides right now and have grown weary or loosing business to competition (in the worst recession ever) but who is to say this rough-arm legislation is going to work for you. What if an immediate shortage of licensed guides forces the daily rate up to $1,500 a day and 90% of your repeat customers bow out. What if a shortage of licensed guides tempts other Bahamian lodges to poach yours away and then you are left with hiring less than capable alternatives, for $1,500 a day. What if the wrong team wins the next election and the new local administrator has it in for you and makes it difficult for your guests to get licenses. What if the local administrator runs out of licenses so your guests cant fish. What if the government does nothing at all to enforce the regulations but your guides take it as a license to show up when they feel like it and charge whatever the want. What if this whole exercise is just the government trying to grab a chunk of your guests spending money and don't give a damn about whether your industry survives or fails

The only thing I know is when these short sighted, greedy fools in Government say they are going to fix things, it backfires on the very people they are trying to help. Unfortunately for them it is so much easier and satisfying to come up with new cockamamie rules Instead of just focusing on implementing the ones that are already in place

I have no problem at all with persecuting foreigners working in this country illegally or Bahamians abusing the system. I would love to see them loose their boats and all their equipment and thrown in jail. While the Gov. is at it they could do something about all the illegal deep sea fishing operators as well

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Deep 2 years, 3 months ago

Squeezing the anglers who spend all that money on their trips to the Bahamas to flats fish for that kind of money will only serve to drive them away. A single day fee that you are suggesting is prohibitive. They could fly to Belize where the fishing is extraordinary or spend a few days in the Florida Keys chasing fish for less than just a single day fee. No it will not help your guides. It will run them out of business.

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