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Abaco Guides Fear ‘Irreparable Harm’ Via New Regulation

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

Concerns continued to mount yesterday over the new fly fishing regulations, with one Bahamas-based association arguing that many reforms were “unnecessary and counterproductive”, and would undermine the industry’s viability.

The Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association, which has been at odds with the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA) since the draft regulations were first released, confirmed the industry split by saying its members “do not recognise” the BFFIA as the sector’s legitimate representative or voice.

The Abaco Association, in a statement yesterday, said: “Rather than welcome all fishing visitors, parts of this regulation restrict anglers from practicing sustainable fishing that does no harm to the fishery, thus greatly reducing the economic benefits of flats fishing for the Bahamas economy.

“Most of the regulation is unnecessary and does nothing for sustainable development of the fly fishing sector.  The three major threats to the fishery are habitat loss, degradation of the water and illegal netting. This regulation does nothing to address two of these threats.  Netting bonefish has been illegal for many years but the law is rarely enforced.”

The Abaco Association cited a 2016 economic impact assessment of the fly fishing industry by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which used the Bahamas and Martinique as case studies.

The report said: “The anglers’ main reason for visiting the Bahamas is for fishing. If they were not allowed to fish, 91 per cent of the anglers responded that they would not have travelled to the Bahamas and made these expenditures.

“Only 5 per cent said they would have still visited the Bahamas, and 4 per cent were ‘Unsure’. Therefore, fishing is the main force that encourages other expenditures on an angler’s visit. As seen from responses from anglers,  the total expenditure for anglers for an average three-day fishing trip to the Bahamas is estimated at$4,608 per angler or $1,536 per day.”

The report also noted that the average times an angler visited the Bahamas to fish was at least twice per year, and that they spent anywhere from one to six days in this nation.

It added that the  recreational fishing sector generates annual spending of $527 million, and contributes more than $411 million to the Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP). The industry was said to also provide more than 18,000 Bahamian jobs, either directly or indirectly.

And, referencing a 2010 study by Tony Fedler on the economic impact of flatsfishing in the Bahamas, the Abaco Association said it identified 313 bone fishing guides in the Bahamas. It argued that “it is impossible for this small amount of guides to fulfill the 1:2 guide/angler requirement for all boating anglers as now required by regulation.”

“Second homeowners who have imported duty-paid, Bahamian-registered boats will not be allowed to flats fish without a guide,” the Abaco Association said. 

“The countries’ recreational boating/yachting visitors, who utilise the many Bahamian-owned marinas, will not be allowed to flats fish without a guide. Visitors who rent a boat from the many Bahamian boat rental companies will not be allowed to flats fish without a guide. 

“Bahamians who own vacation properties and provide a two-person kayak or little skiff can no longer market to bone fishermen because it will be illegal for the visitors to use the boats to access the flats to wade fish without a guide according to the regulation.

The Abaco Association added: “In a misguided attempt to improve the economic outlook of guides, fuelled by BFFIA, the minister will irreparably harm other vital components of the fly fishing industry.  Perhaps more shocking is that the Ministry of Tourism and the Prime Minister have not put a stop to the flats fishing regulation in its present form. 

“Hundreds of letters have been written to these and other government officials by stakeholders offering input and feedback while the legislation was being drafted, and yet it has all been ignored.

“Pleas to have the 1:2 guide/angler regulation removed by second home owner foreign investors, who have invested untold millions purchasing real estate in this country, primarily for the purpose of flats fishing, have been ignored by the Government.  These same home owners pump another $70,000 each, on average, into the local island economies each year. Many of them are leaving. Already, condos, homes and boats have been put up for sale.”

The Abaco Association said that while it agrees that ‘mother ships’ should be barred from fishing in Bahamian waters, the regulations will ultimately punish the entire industry instead of a specific culprit.    

“Specific regulations, for instance not issuing sports fishing permits to yachts with more than one flats boat, could easily be done via Customs and Immigration at ports of entry with the appropriate Fisheries and Port Department regulation,” the Abaco Association said.

“There is no need to punish the 83 per cent of anglers who fish from boats when they visit the Bahamas because of the dozen mother ships that have been fishing here for the past 40 years.  The one-sided input into the development of these regulations has left stakeholders angry.”

The Abaco Association also labelled as a “slap in the face” the requirement that all guides be trained and certified by a non-governmental organisation in order to qualify for a guide license.

“The biggest complaint from anglers about guides in the Bahamas is regarding their shoddy equipment; inadequate boats, poorly maintained engines, and beat up vehicles used to transport anglers,” it said. 

“The one thing that the Minister could have done that would have actually made a difference for guides and their high-dollar anglers in this regulation is the allowance of duty-free concessions for vehicles, boat trailers, fishing equipment and engine parts.

“In fact, those perks were in the first draft, but by the fifth draft that is now regulation, they have fallen by the wayside. The Government is now requiring guides to spend a lot of money to continue to participate in the very guiding profession they have already successfully built, and yet there is no incentive offered for them to participate in this BFFIA promulgated scheme.”

Comments

sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

What was I thinking.... Of course the PLP is going to make a move that takes jobs away from Bahamians and negatively impacts tourism.......

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The_Oracle 1 year, 8 months ago

Didn't this all emanate from a PLP stronghold general? Love how they shoot themselves (and everyone else) in the foot every time! Stupid is as stupid does!

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The_Oracle 1 year, 8 months ago

Let me add here, as it is a classic example of Bahamian "if I can't have it, no one can"

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MonkeeDoo 1 year, 8 months ago

The_Oracle - so damned true. They have got to go one way or another !

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killemwitdakno 1 year, 8 months ago

Bahamas based means not Bahamian. Means Americans that want to profit off the best in the industry without policy. K.

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cndflyfishr 1 year, 8 months ago

Used to come down every year for an extended stay to go fly fishing.( 6 weeks) Normally I would rent a boat with me and my fishing partners. But getting a guide because there is two of us in the boat is ludicrous. just a money grab as I see it. Not happening as I will not, nor will my partners, becoming back. Plenty of other places on this planet to fish for bones that actually want tourist fishermen. Its to bad as we leave a lot of cash down there.

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DDK 1 year, 8 months ago

As I have said before, the government has absolutely no idea and does not care one iota about the effects of its greed inspired regulations on our Bahamas!

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 8 months ago

To all of you who see no need for sportsfishing regulations in our country ............ cross over to Florida, go pull out a fishing line or rod, jump in a dinghy and fish offshore (or off a dock or bridge) .......... and see how long the Americans will let you do it ...... what is wrong with yall dumb asses who think that white people can come here from God-knows-where and do as they please with "yes massa" locals?????????? .......... We need friggin fishing regulations!!!!!!

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 8 months ago

Why is there an island-specific fly-fishing association vs a national association????? ....... Why cannot there ONE group with island branches ............. like a Bahamas Federation of Fly-fishing ............. But Abaco has a history of sticking out like a sore thumb

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 8 months ago

The reason for that "history" is that every time Abaco creates a business / money-making opportunity and runs with it and makes lots of money - the Govt instantly jumps to "regulate" it - and move it to Nassau and down south. You just can't do whatever you feel like doing. You need to learn how to make money, how to do it, how to work it - then do it yourself. But instead Govt wants to take it away from the white people of Abaco and just think it will work elsewhere. This same thinking they have applied against the "foreign" "white" people of Freeport and their "foreign" England owners of the Port Authority. Well, you can see what wonderful shape Freeport has been in since then. With the loss of white money from Freeport and Abaco flowing into the Treasury - ends cannot be met in Govt. Hospital out of blood pressure pills, asthma meds for infants, lots of stuff - all kinds of loss all over the place. So they say we need VAT to make up the shortfall. You wouldn't need VAT money if you still had money coming from Abaco and Freeport. But you CHOOSE not to have it - because there are a lot of white people there who also benefit. You would rather have none, than to know a white person is getting something. Fine. Choose none. See how good none tastes when it is what is on your dinner plate.

TheMadHatter

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kdlrrl 1 year, 8 months ago

An association is to work for the good of all, and when it does not - you protect yourselves as Abaco's professional fishermen do.

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jomofro 1 year, 8 months ago

sheeprunner, I'm from Florida. If you come over here, or any other state in the U.S., you can buy a license online and go fish. If you are following the regulations of what you can keep and what you must release you will always be 100% ok. You will NEVER be forced to fish with a guide. NEVER. It doesn't matter if you fish from land, a bridge, wade, or fish from a small boat or a 100' yacht. If you have a license and release what you catch you are always good-to-go. Fishermen like me who come to the Bahamas to flyfish for bonefish love your country and ALWAYS release the bonefish we catch. Forcing us to fish with a guide is the same as forcing us to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking our own meal. It makes no sense and is not visitor-friendly or welcoming. Their are countless places in the world besides the Bahamas where our families (and our vacation $) are welcome.

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The_Oracle 1 year, 8 months ago

Regulations are one thing, dumb assed regulations passed by idiots who listen to idiots we do not need. Funny how they want to tax and regulate sport fishing but almost gave the whole thing away to the Chinese unfettered!

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Porcupine 1 year, 8 months ago

Stupid is as stupid does. All the arrows showing the trend of The Bahamas point in one direction. Who, I ask, can't see this?

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VDSheep 10 months, 3 weeks ago

No one is forcing anyone to do anything other than obey the laws of the country as you would do in any country. USA has a population of around 350 million – and lots of resources and land. The Bahamas has a population of around 350 thousand ‘ with little land and little resources – we cannot just give it up to be swallowed up and have nothing – that makes no sense. We are the first in this hemisphere in commerce ‘ banking ‘ and so-called democracy – if you’d call the others democracies. However - we must protect our people rights to survive economically. We must face off with the super pirates that wants to come in and take it all from us!

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