By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The new fly fishing industry regulations’ penalties were yesterday described as “draconian, disproportionate and hostile”, with one high-end bonefishing lodge executive yesterday outlining several concerns over the reforms.
Peter Mantle, managing director of the The Delphi Club, a luxury bonefishing lodge and micro-hotel on Abaco, said that “despite the mitigation provided by the fixed penalty scheme, we consider the penalties for non-compliance with these regulations to be draconian/disproportionate, and therefore hostile”.
V Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources, yesterday said the regulations provided for a fixed $250 penalty for anyone engaging in fly fishing without a license.
But if a person is convicted by a magistrate, they could face a fine of up to $2,000, six weeks imprisonment or both. The fly fishing regulations are expected to take effect on January 9.
The regulations, approved by Cabinet last October, will require anglers above the age of 12, and who wish to fish in the flats, to apply for a personal angler’s license and pay a prescribed fee. Non-citizens will have to pay $15 for a day license, $20 for a weekly license, $30 for a monthly license and $60 for an annual license.
Mr Mantle said: “We have no problem in principle with the angler license requirement, but we have heard nothing about the practical implementation.
“We have not been officially informed by anyone as to whether there is even an online application system yet or how this will work in practice. In fact, we have not been officially informed about these regulations in any respect at any stage.”
Mr Mantle also expressed concerns over the stamping of licenses at a Bahamian ‘port of entry’, a concern which was also expressed by the international non-profit conservation organisation, Bone Fish Tarpon Trust.
“The proposed port-of-entry franking of licenses serves no obvious purpose. Such a bureaucratic overlay is unwelcoming and unnecessary,” he argued.
“ It is in everyone’s interest - including the Government’s - that the licensing process is as straightforward and easy as possible, with a simple online mechanism and no more, if compliance and revenue are to be optimised.
Mr Mantle continued: “The position of second homeowners with their own flats boats remains deeply invidious. Unless they fish alone (unwise for a number of reasons), they are compelled to take a guide - assuming that their boats do not qualify as “a Bahamian owned or licensed charter vessel” in Regulation 3.
“I think this is spectacularly unwise and will seriously damage interest in investment in the Bahamas. It is also, in effect, retrospective legislation that is always bad policy, and will affect people who have already invested large sums in the Bahamas.”
Mr Mantle also argued that the reference to “approved fly fishing associations” in relation to guide certification is “unnecessarily specific”.
“The Minister should be able to approve anybody or agency that he so chooses - not just a fly fishing association - to do the necessary; it might be a government agency, an independent training company, or whoever the Minister thinks has competence,” he added.