TENNYSON Wells, who could see only the financial gain, not the destruction of long line fishing to our fisheries when he was Agriculture Minister in the early nineties, seems to take the same view of the controversial $2.1 billion proposal to invite the People’s Republic of China to partner with Bahamians in our fishing industry. To facilitate this the Bahamas government pledged the lease of 10,000 acres of Crown Land at Andros for the venture.
The only problem that Mr Wells had was that current Agriculture Minister Alfred Gray was not “upfront with the people” about the project from the very beginning.
“He should go to the people who are in the industry. Talk with the farmers, fishermen, processors, because we produce seafood now that is being exported to Europe, US, and Canada. So if we can produce more, if it’s there and the fishery is properly managed, I don’t see a problem with it,” he told The Tribune last week. As usual, Mr Wells saw a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, not the potential dangers at the end of a very dark tunnel.
This was his same attitude when, as Agriculture Minister, he promoted long line fishing — in fact Prime Minister Perry Christie was also a proponent of long line fishing when he was Agriculture Minister in the Pindling administration. Apparently Bahamians only became aware of the threat to their fisheries when Mr Wells started his longline campaign with speeches at the various service clubs. He lit a match to their tempers when he made it known that his Ministry was exploring the controversial method to develop the deep sea industry and create jobs. There was an uproar in the town when a longliner trespassed into the Stuart Cove dive complex and started killing the trained sharks. In addition to destroying the sharks, their hooks were ripping up the coral from the seabed. In the flick of an eyelid a major tourist attraction was being destroyed. The town went wild — demonstrations, petitions and general unrest. Although Bahamians wanted a total ban, long line fishing was banned to the extent that no one can go into the long line business today without the written permission of the Governor General.
The first we heard of long-line fishing after that long and drawn out fight was an item published on February 4, 2014 in The Abaconian when there was speculation that long line fishing might be increasing in Bahamian waters. The Abaconian reported that “on a recent beach-combing trip Ministry of the Environment Warden Keith Bishop found a large amount of buoys, ropes, clips, hooks and fishing line washed on beaches in Southern Abaco from long line fishing vessels.”
And now we have the Bahamas concocting a pitch to the Chinese because, in the words of PLP chairman Bradley Roberts, The Bahamas is “cash strapped” and there are few jurisdictions in the world from which to get capital, except, of course, China or the United Arab Emirates - “two cash rich jurisdictions.”
And so our ill-informed little minnows have decided to swim with the sharks. All they can see is the pot of gold, not knowing that in the end it will elude them. Before even putting this idea in the form of a proposal, our government should have firstly investigated China’s reputation in the fishing industry. They should also have investigated China’s dispute in the Spratly islands in the South China Seas — that’s if they are even smart enough to find those islands on the map. China dismissed the Hague’s ruling earlier this year that she has “no legal basis” for her claims to economic rights across large swaths of the South China Seas. According to China the ruling is “a farce.” Yes,a “farce”! So only time will tell how it will all end. Our Bahamian legislators should try to better understand the treacherous world in which we live before their blind ignorance leaves future generations to the mercy of another “farce” – this time in The Bahamas.
In the proposal that Minister V Alfred Grey approved for our ambassador to present to the People’s Republic of China, it is proposed that our government “provide fishing licences to each of the 100 corporate entities participating in the initiative, consistent with existing laws” — those laws being that only Bahamians can fish in Bahamian waters. It goes on to say that only Bahamian farmers and fishermen will make up the workforce. However, the proposal concedes that probably each of the 100 entities “will require the services of one fishing and one farming expert, for a limited period who will probably be Chinese” – that works out to 200 Chinese. Remember the Chinese are a smart people. They too have an unemployment problem, so wherever their money goes so go their unemployed. We have Baha Mar and the Pointe as examples.
And after they have helped us deplete our waters with their avaricious methods, they will sail off looking for new depths to plunder, leaving your grandchildren floating on shallow and empty seas.
Time magazine of August 24, 2016 has an article that all Bahamians should read.
Entitled: “The Fight to save the world’s seas from China’s bloated fishing industry” it was written by Charlie Campbell.
“New data from environmental groups indicates that Chinese fishing ships are disguising their true location, employing destructive fishing techniques and flouting the territorial boundaries of sovereign nations,” says Time.
“The frigid waters off Japan’s eastern coast teem with sardines, mackerel, anchovy and scallop,” writes Mr Campbell. “They are some of Asia’s most fertile fishing grounds, inspiring an exquisite seafood-rich national cuisine, and supporting a domestic fishing industry worth some $9 billion each year. Today, though, this natural bounty is under threat from a stealthy interloper: an armada of up to 200 Chinese fishing boats, which recently set up camp at the edge of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“The boats,” he continues, “are allegedly using destructive fishing practices like drift nets to ‘vacuum up’ all manner of sea life, one Japanese official reveals to TIME. ‘This area is a breading ground so they are catching lots of juveniles,’ says the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘It has had a massive impact on Japanese fisheries.’
“Some Chinese vessels have even entered Japanese waters, raising regional tensions and prompting Japan’s Foreign Minister to summon the Chinese ambassador for an explanation. But Japan is only the latest country to feel the brunt of China’s bloated fishing industry, which suffers from overcapacity owing in part to huge government subsidies. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) Chinese fishing is reaching ‘crisis point’ for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, say environmentalists exacerbated by China’s own chronically depleted coastal waters. Last week, China’s Ministry of Agriculture said 13 million tons of fish are caught in Chinese territorial waters each year — 4 million to 5 million tons more than what’s sustainable.”
“Environmentalists now warn that without action we could face mass extinction on the seas”.
To read the whole article, visit: http://time.com/4463943/japan-china-fishing-marine-iuu-environment