By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A pilot project to help Bahamian fly fishing guides improve their business and technical capacity is now underway on Andros.
At the same time a 'holistic' market assessment of the local fly fishing industry is also being undertaken.
The Ministry of Tourism launched the Fly Fishing Economic Empowerment Programme on Andros as part of a programme approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) back in 2014. That IDB programme led to the establishment of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Guides Association (BFFIA).
Tarran Simms, assistant coordinator of the programme told Tribune Business yesterday: "We are developing a community-based business model for fly fishing guides. Under this model we are upgrading the skill sets of current guides and also creating opportunities for new guides for the sustainability of the industry.
"In the training they are learning about lodge management and marketing, along with fly fishing techniques, flats ecology and things of that nature. Andros is the fly fishing capital of The Bahamas. We expect that this programme will be replicated on other islands in The Bahamas."
Mr Simms added: "Another component which falls under the project is the development of a curriculum package for anyone wanting to become a fly fisherman in The Bahamas." The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) is developing the curriculum.
"A market assessment of the industry is currently being done to look at the value of the industry and work with lodges and guides to create a better value chain for the industry. We are looking at the needs and wants of the market and seeing where The Bahamas stands in the market," added Mr Simms.
The Bahamian fly fishing industry is said to be worth more than $500 million. There are roughly 400 local fly fishing guides
Back in January regulations to govern the industry were implemented which require anglers above the age of 12 who wish to fish in the flats to apply for a personal angler's licence. Non-citizens will have to pay $15 for a day licence, $20 for a weekly licence, $30 for a monthly licence and $60 for an annual licence. The regulations also require a foreign vessel wishing to fish in the flats to obtain the usual sports fishing permit while each person onboard the vessel intending to fish must hold a personal license.
The regulations also ban commercial fishing in the flats. Anglers are only allowed to catch and release when landing bonefish, permit, snook, cobia and tarpon.
The new law will also establish a Conservation Fund for the management and protection of the flats and fisheries resources in the Bahamas.