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Fishing Rules Driving Us Away

EDITOR, The Tribune.

A new draft of proposed flats fishing legislation has been released by The Department of Marine Resources. All Bahamians who fish, as well as guides that work in the business, second-homeowners with boats and even visitors to The Bahamas should be aware that both Bahamians and foreigners will be required to buy a fishing licence to fish in water less than six feet deep and if you get caught without one the fine is $3,000!  

I think it may be helpful for your readers to understand the perspective of a bone fisherman from the United States in regards to the proposed new fisheries regulations, including the most recent April draft. 

My family and I have visited the Out Islands for many years. We have fished many islands of the Bahamas:  Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island and Walkers Cay. 

We typically combine some days of fishing with a guide and other days of fishing on our own.  We are devout “catch and release” fisherman and take great care to protect the fish and all marine resources. 

We love the Bahamian people and have been well received in all the communities we have visited.

We believe our visits add to the economic well-being of the communities we visit through the money we spend on meals we eat, guide and lodging fees we pay, the offerings we give when we attend church, and the shopping we do during our visit.

Unfortunately, since the advent of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (led by Mr Prescott Smith) and Minister Gray’s proposed new flats fishing legislation we have put all planned trips to The Bahamas on hold.

While we certainly don’t mind buying a non-resident fishing licence at a reasonable fee for the duration of our stay, the severe punitive and vindictive aspects of the drafts we have seen thus far lead us to believe that we are not welcome to visit and fish in your country any longer. 

For instance, why would we want to risk the forfeiture of our fishing gear and a $3,000 fine as well as the possibility of jail time for simply renting a skiff and trying to bonefish on our own during our stay?

In the interim, while we wait for closure on this legislation (that has been ongoing for an entire year now) we have instead vacationed and fished in Mexico, Belize, Idaho and Oregon. My wife and I and another couple are afraid to make reservations for a trip to The Bahamas this fall because of the unsettled state of affairs regarding bone-fishing and the draconian legislation. 

We will not return to your country to fish until sensible legislation is enacted.

Hopefully more thoughtful heads will prevail on this and we will feel comfortable enough to return.

Even then, please know that we will specifically ask if a guide or lodge is a member or supporter of the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association before booking.  If they are, we will not utilise their services. 

I do not believe they speak for all guides as the official voice of fishing in The Bahamas and further, I believe the forces behind this legislation have so thoroughly alienated fly fishermen across the world that the economic damage to your country (which I have heard is already being felt) will be long lasting. 

I truly hate that - but I want your readers to understand from my perspective the cause of this damage and who is most responsible for the decline in flats fishing tourism to The Bahamas.

We hope your government understands the implications of the proposed fisheries legislation and acts in a reasonable, thoughtful way because we want to come back to The Bahamas we know and love.

CHUCK FLOURNOY

Lynchburg,

Virginia USA

May 18, 2016

Comments

Sickened 4 years, 9 months ago

Dear Chuck,

Don't worry about being fined. The standard tip to an arresting officer is only around $50 and most out-islands only have a couple of on-duty officers at any given time. Also, if it's sunny out the officer will be under a tree somewhere or locked in his air-conditioned car. If the arrest requires the officer to get wet well there is no way it's going to happen.

Now... if our PM happens to catch you then you are in for some shit. He will demand tens of thousands of dollars and will want 'a little piece' of you (not your wife) as well.

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Abaconian 4 years, 9 months ago

The legislation is a joke. It is designed to benefit a few individuals with special interests and personal agendas....and no one else. That is how our country is being run nowadays. They don't look at the long term implications of their decisions, and they care for little else but themselves.

Fly-fishing plays an important role in the Bahamian economy.... particularly in those parts of the Family Islands where more traditional forms of employment (the "9 to 5") and ways of bringing revenue to the community are harder to come by. Most of the people that come down to fish the flats have money, and are willing to spend it on groceries, food/drink, guides, lodging etc. Great relationships have been formed between foreign flats fisherman and local guides/communities - relationships that have brought opportunities to Bahamians that would have never existed otherwise. Plus, fly-fishing is relatively sustainable - it's catch n release!

Why on earth would the gov. want to potentially destroy that? It makes no sense... Just so people like Prescott Smith can play the tired old "white man/foreign man stealing our jobs" card, rather than coming to terms with the fact that other people, who may or may not be foreigners, run better lodges than him? Hmm... I know what to do - let's force every visitor to choose a bahamian flats guide whether they want to or not!!! That will ensure that we make money every time!! lol.. some people will cut off their nose to spite their face.

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Tropicbahamas 4 years, 9 months ago

Your last paragraph makes no sense. What I find strange and bothers me as a Bahamian and many others who have been following this is your constant attacks on this one Bahamian who appears to want to see some form of legislation passed as it relates to this industry which in its current draft form other than maybe the need to rethink some of the fees is in the best interest of Bahamians and provides some level of protection and regulation. The Government should be commended for their efforts. Something is not right here and I smell a "rat"! Jokes like "This is ours" said.

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killemwitdakno 4 years, 9 months ago

I've stayed in the mountains at an all inclusive in Virginia before where I still had to pay $100 to fish in a green pond for some few fish thrown in it. Rent the lines and pay for bait too. So much for all inclusive. No guide, but that's because it was a designated pond.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

For this foreigner .......... his issue is the "excessive" fine............ His primary question should be: what is the price of a fishing license???? ........ that should be his only concern ........... obeying the laws of The Bahamas ........ and I wonder where in the USA can I go and fish/hunt (without a license) as a Bahamian????????

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themessenger 4 years, 9 months ago

You can't, but the difference is in the cost and ease of operation. I have a current Canadian fishing license, $40CAD, good for one year date of purchase, also a State of Michigan fishing license, $65US, also good for one year from date of purchase. You can purchase a fishing license in either country at a gas station or hardware store without having to jump through all the hoops our officials enjoy seeing foreigners do so much,nothing like a little grovelling on their part to make us feel really important There is no stipulation in either the US or Canada that makes hiring a local guide mandatory, that's a typical greedy Bahamian knee jerk decision, and before you go there brother Sheeprunner, I am a 6th generation Bahamian and I know my peeps. I also know what throwing out the baby with the bath water means too, the Bahamas ain't the only destination in the world with bonefish.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

I agree with your views on the perceived difficulty of obtaining a fishing license in our country as compared to the USA or Canada ........ and I do understand the politics involved in the present bone-fishing "associations" community ...... but foreigners have for too long being given carte blanche access to our fisheries resources with little oversight or regulation ........... and it has not been to our Treasury's benefit ........ that has to stop (that is my point)

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themessenger 4 years, 9 months ago

Oversight and regulation is fine and no right thinking Bahamian should have a problem with that if it carried out in a professional manner. But as Bigyard correctly points out there is considerable resentment from Bahamians who quite happily take everything they can from our tourists on the one hand but still have that suck teet stink attitude. We also are now well know for value for money in tourism in general and the tipping point isn't far off when we will have effectively priced ourselves out of the market. So far as conservation,regulation and enforcement are concerned, next to the Dominicans, Bahamians are their own worst enemies and if government doesn't get serious real soon the collapse of the the conch,crawfish and snapper fisheries, just to name a couple, is inevitable.

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newcitizen 4 years, 9 months ago

The xenophobia is dripping from your comments.

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TheBigYard 4 years, 9 months ago

The serious factor and common denominator in all of this is the ignorance of my people - Bahamians discrimination towards foreigners; when the money that the foreign tourists bring to the islands is spent on charter planes, taxis, grocery shops, souvenier stores, lodges, guides and miscellaneous purchases. While Bahamians continue to offend the foreign tourist, we create a barrier in customer service that alienates their desire to engage with the Bahamas society as a whole. This issue is not just about fishing or expenses related to such, it involves the ignorance presented by the people of the nation who do not graciously welcome tourists into the country, because they are foreigners. Kindly noted is that The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association did not have a public demise until Prescott Smith took over the helm. The man who used to be married to a foreign woman and adopted foreign children and housed foreign in-laws on his Stafford Creek Lodge property, seemingly became most hateful toward foreigners and utilized the BFFIA as a platform. We can't have it both ways folks, encouraging foreign investors and expecting benefits from foreign tourism, while simultaneously rooting a nation of blatant hate and discontent toward the same foreigners. The way I see it: Mental Health can be medicated, Stupidity can be educated, but Ignorance ... Need I say more? Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica - get ready for the influx of unwelcomed foreign fisherman that will NEVER visit the Bahamas again!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

You know and I know that 85% of every tourist dollar exits this economy ....... do not pretend that Bahamians own this tourist infrastructure in our country ............ the small locally-owned fishing lodge is an exception and not a rule in our tourist economy where most "resorts" are controlled by foreign interests

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newcitizen 4 years, 9 months ago

Where on earth do you get this 85% of every tourist dollar leaving the country? Labour alone makes up way more than 15% of the cost of operating anything tourism based, and that money stays right here. You should also realize that almost all the money actually coming into the country is from tourism.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 9 months ago

And then it goes back out when we buy building materials, cars, furniture, clothes, shoes and food.

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newcitizen 4 years, 9 months ago

Well every damn dollar in this country goes out then. We have more than a 95% trade deficit. Saying that the tourism money is leaving has nothing to do with the money coming from tourism. What you said serves absolutely no purpose and is just logically stupid.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

Don't blame me for your ignorance .......... ask any expert person involved in the macroeconomics of this country ...... we retain very little of the tourist dollar

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newcitizen 4 years, 9 months ago

You're failure to provide any substantiating evidence tends to poke holes in your argument. Simply repeating what you have previously said does not make it a fact.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

I am not a lawyer that operate on 'argument' and 'innuendo'.......... I operate on facts and stats that are easily verifiable ........ you do not have to admit truth to my comments ...... its all a fair game on this thread

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Tropicbahamas 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow! this is really sad! You guys are personally attacking Prescott Smith and dragging his personal affairs into the public arena with half twisted truths to suit your selfish agenda and ideology. There is no hate towards Foreigners reflected in the Current draft fly fishing legislation. The only venom and hate being displayed and spewed here are from yourself and several others noted here. BFFIA is made up of 10 Board Members from around the country and has several hundred members from all over the country. He acts on the instructions of the Board and its members. We Bahamians are not as ignorant and stupid as you think we are and can clearly see through your "TheBigYard", so before you start " talking about someone else's dirty linen you should go through your hamper first before you cast the first stone!" As a Bahamian, I cry shame on you for stooping so low!

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Tropicbahamas 4 years, 9 months ago

Because Bahamians want to have some form of regulations in place like they do in so many Countries makes us ignorant then so be it! Why have you stooped so low by dragging this man's personals into this legislation? You seemed to be filled with hate and spew venom which lends to the appearance as if you are using this as a personal platform to express your bias and mean views against this one Prescott. The manner also that you speak gives the impression that you were intimately involved with this Association at some point. Hmmmm! I smell another rat!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

Well to all of the other commenters on this story ........... the government has to quickly rethink its tourism product and its philosophy .......... using the obsolete Stafford Sands model will render us non-competitive in the next decade .......... but we seem powerless to shift to another model that will retain at least 50% more of our generated tourism income ....... incentivize Bahamian tourist investors, grow and produce more native food, drinks, art, furniture, crafts etc, airlift more tourists with Bahamasair, integrate island transport, market multi-island packages, make each island UNIQUE, divest tourism control to local government, create more authentic Bahamian tourism sites and activities ........... DUHHH

What are we paying a Director-General of Tourism $200,000 for .............. and still selling this shitty tourism product after 60 years???????

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Bonehead 4 years, 9 months ago

I bought a house about 20 years ago in Abaco. One of the prime reasons for that was to enjoy the fishing here. Over the past 20 years, I have paid taxes and supported the local economy. I have gone the extra mile supporting the schools, churches and other charitable groups here. During that time, I have imported 3 boats to the Bahamas and paid duty on them. I keep the registration and fishing permits current on each of them. One is a small flats boat that I enjoy fishing the creeks with for bonefish. Now politicians are going to tell me that I cannot fish without having a guide on board? Really!? Give me a break! It seems that politicians are the same everywhere. They shoot themselves in the foot trying to cater to a few special interest groups. I have many friends who used to come by boat to the Bahamas, but do not any more, primarily because of costs and regulations. It seems to me that the politicians should be trying very hard to attract more tourists and fishermen to the Bahamas. The VAT, power prices, etc are driving people away. With Cuba just beginning to open up, I expect to hear a great sucking sound as tourist dollars leave the Bahamas and go elsewhere. It is already cheaper for me to fly from the US to Costa Rica than it is to fly to the Abacos. And the fishing there is the best in the world, far better than the Bahamas. Maybe it is time to sell out here and move on!

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Tropicbahamas 4 years, 9 months ago

Costa Rica!!!!??? Google Earth does not lie! Even Stevie Wonder can see we have the best fisheries in this hemisphere! Cuba has rules! It would be interesting if you take the same tune and attitude to their regulations. Betcha won't. You will abide by all their laws while in their country!

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 9 months ago

No matter where he goes he will have to pay a fee. And the other places may not be as rich with fish as the Bahamas, I am sorry to see him go. But the Bahamian people can be assured that God will remain with us. In other works one monkey don't spoil no show.

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Sickened 4 years, 9 months ago

God may have created this planet (along with the other 500 trillion planets, 5 trillion galaxies and 50 billion solar systems... give or take a few hundred billion) but he sure ain't checkin' for us'. Shit, he may not even remember creating the dinosaurs.

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SP 4 years, 9 months ago

Please leave, and don't let the door hit you in the ass. We will survive without you!

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themessenger 4 years, 9 months ago

SP, you and Birdie should be careful what you wish for, you might get it because,unfortunately, people like you all obviously don't get it. One monkey maybe don't stop no show but a mass exodus of them sure would, look what ga get when ya tired of what ya got!

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

Tropicbahamas sounds like he/she has a "horse in the race" ........ the foreigners and the politically-exposed resorts/guides are all taking advantage of and profiting off our natural resources with little returns to the Treasury and the mis-management of our renewable resources .............. it is time to make the government, the tourists and the local guides accountable for our fishing resources .......... stop hollering and accept that we have to do better

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Tropicbahamas 4 years, 9 months ago

Sheeprunner12 I do not own a lodge and not a guide but I have tried flyfishing! My "horse" is what is right for the Bahamas at the end of the day! I agree they should be held accountable. Amen!

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TheBigYard 4 years, 9 months ago

Sheep runner hit the nail on the head - TropicBahamas doesn't just have a horse in the race ... She is the horse running the race, along with her partner. They are attempting to profit from all financial gains recommended via the fishing legislation, by suggesting the money be run through BFFIA. Anybody that has been following the facts about this association can see they have done NOTHING at all in the past year, except post pictures of themselves on Facebook. How is this helping us Bahamians?

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