By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government has made no decision on repealing the fly fishing regulations, although the Prime Minister's press secretary yesterday confirmed several industry members had presented on the issue.
Anthony Newbold, during his weekly press briefing, said: "I know that there has been a presentation made by several members of the fly fishing industry to the Government.
"I know that government is looking at that presentation, but no decision has been made to repeal any part of that Act or the Act at all. I know a presentation has been made because I have seen it, but no decision has been made."
Prescott Smith, the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association's (BFFIA) president, earlier this week accused 'special interests' of pressuring the Minnis administration to repeal the country's recently-enacted fly fishing regulations. He confirmed to Tribune Business that "a really urgent meeting" is being arranged between the Government and industry stakeholders on the matter.
His comments come on the heels of a statement released on Sunday by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader, Philip Davis, who expressed concern over reports circulating in the fly fishing community that the Government plans to revoke the regulations.
"We advise the Government not to do so," said Mr Davis in the statement, adding: "We urge the Government to proceed carefully and not to proceed with the repeal of any legislation that protects fly fishing for Bahamians."
The fly fishing regulations introduced back in January require anglers over the age of 12, and those who wish to fish in the flats, to apply for a personal angler's license and pay a set fee.
Non-Bahamians will have to pay $15 for a daily license; $20 for a weekly license; $30 for a monthly license; and $60 for an annual license. The regulations also require a foreign vessel wishing to fish in the Bahamian flats to obtain the usual sports fishing permit, with each person on the vessel also holding a personal license. The regulations ban commercial fishing in the flats. Anglers are only allowed to catch and release when catching bonefish, permit, snook, cobia and tarpon.
And a Conservation Fund for the management and protection of the flats and fisheries resources in the Bahamas is to be established.
As reported by Tribune Business, when the proposed regulations for the estimated $140 million industry were first unveiled, they created considerable controversy and effectively a divide between the 400 local guides and the lodge owners. The latter were more opposed to the proposals.
There was concern that the regulations, as initially drafted, gave the impression that the Bahamas was being too protectionist and restrictive, and anti-foreign, while tying up access by foreign anglers in bureaucracy and red tape.