By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Fishermen have seen a “turnaround” in their 2015-2016 crawfish yields, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance’s (BCFA) president yesterday saying this was largely due to new fishing practices.
“Things have turned around for us somewhat primarily because we had to change our fishing methods, and we have put in some initiatives because poaching is a serious issue,” said Adrian LaRoda.
“We’re getting more poaching pressure now than before. In order to stay in business, survive and keep our industry alive, we have had to change our fishing practices where the boats now go out at times different than before, when you had operators going out alone and operating individually.”
Mr LaRoda added: “Now groups of operators are going out at certain times and practically trying to do a rotation of the Bahamian vessels on the fishing grounds at any one period.
“That has been successful to the point where we are able to get good yields because of the presence of the Bahamian fishing vessels. That has caused us to see a turnaround in the harvest quantity, which is a good thing.
“A number of operators would have actually closed up shop. It’s not so much because we are seeing less activity, but because we have changed our methods of operating. During the closed season, when there are no Bahamian vessels out there, that is when you would see increased poaching activity.”
Mr LaRoda said Bahamian fishermen were also facing other challenges. “We are now getting greater fishing pressure from Americans. There are many charter operations, diving and sports fishing, coming in and fishing illegally, fishing the traps and apparatus of licensed fishermen. We are seeing a lot of that,” he said.
“Things are going on but we are taking one step at a time and trying to be proactive in what we call self-preservation. With poachers becoming more aggressive it would have been easy to take advantage of Bahamians fishing out at sea, but with our increased numbers we have our own beefed up defense, and this offers some protection for our fishermen out there,” Mr LaRoda said.
“It’s comforting to know that anywhere within a couple of miles of you there is another fishing vessel that would come to your aid in the event that something happens. There have been incidents just as recent as a few weeks ago, where our guys have had to go to the aid of a fishing operator.”