By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE introduction of a new Fisheries Act is "long overdue", the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance's (BCFA) president yesterday saying the current law has numerous "loopholes".
"This is something that is long overdue, no doubt about it," said Adrian LaRoda. "There are a number of loopholes in the law right now, and a number of issues that aren't adequately addressed."
Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources, told Parliament on Wednesday that a new Fisheries Act has been drafted and prepared for submission to Cabinet.
Speaking with Tribune Business, Mr LaRoda applauded the Minnis administration for moving forward with the legislation, noting that the BCFA had provided its input during stakeholder consultation.
Chief among the BCFA's concerns, Mr LaRoda said, is the need for a national licensing programme.
"We want to see a licensing programme where all fishermen are licensed, commercial and recreational," he argued.
"Right now there is no accurate number as to how many persons are actively participating in the industry. It's the same for the recreational fishermen because people don't understand that they take more than commercial fishermen, and there is no accurate number as to how many of these vessels are in the Bahamas. There is also the need for increased penalties for poachers. There are several things we want enshrined in law and to tighten the loopholes."
Mr LaRoda added that the commercial fisheries sector should also have its own enforcement arm, similar to the fish and wildlife authorities in other jurisdictions.
"We haven't seen a final draft so I don't know to what extent our recommendations have been incorporated at this point," he said.
Addressing Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Wells said: "A new Fisheries Act has been drafted and is being prepared for submission to the Cabinet for parliamentary debate and, hopefully, passage.
"The draft has incorporated the majority of the new international norms relating to fisheries, such as eco-sensitive norms relating to fisheries, the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, SDG 314 and Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing."