By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources yesterday pledged that the Government would do nothing to jeopardise the $141 million Bahamian fly fishing industry, while insisting that the sector must be regulated.
V. Alfred Gray said regulation was necessary for the industry reach its true economic potential, as he called on bone fishing guides and lodge owners to participate in consultation on the proposed regulations.
Mr Gray addressed the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFFIA) annual general meeting yesterday, amid a mix of opposition and support for the Government’s proposed reforms.
“We are looking for a solution all sides can live with,” said Mr Gray, urging guides and lodge owners to participate in the four-hour consultation set for Monday at the Ministry’s headquarters.
“We want as many people to participate,” he added, conceding that the Government could not please everyone. “For years I have been observing, listening and taking my own stock of what goes on the industry.
“I think that the industry would be worst off if the fly fishermen were not to continue to come. What we have done is put together some rules, and we have invited people to look at what we would like to do and make suggestions by whatever means for tightening and making those rules what you think they ought to be.
“It’s subject to change, subject to amendments and adjustments. We could not ask you to give opinions on nothing. We wanted you to see what we are thinking and ask for your input so that, at the end of the day, we come up with a position that those who visit can live with, and those who fish and work in the industry can live with, and we preserve this industry for generations yet unborn. That is what we are seeking.”
Mr Gray explained that the draft, which will emerge from a consultation process that concludes next week, will be presented to Cabinet, adding that the Government still holds the right to make any further adjustments it deems necessary.
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 regulatory framework for flats fishing in the Bahamas through a set of new permit fees and stricter distinctions for foreign fishers and foreign-owned bone fishing lodges.
Under the proposed regulations, visitors and others seeking flats fishing permits would be charged $20 a day for a permit, while guides and lodge operators would pay $150 and $250 per year for their certificates, respectively.
All three of these fees are accompanied by $10 processing fees. Flats fishing permit fees will then be split down the middle, with 50 per cent of the proceeds going to the Government’s consolidated fund and the other half “reserved as a conservation levy and directly deposited into, and for the purposes of, the conservation fund”.