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Bahamian Fish Lodges, Guides 'Catching Hell'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian bone-fishing lodge owners and guides in the southern Bahamas yesterday said they were "catching hell", with some alleging that business is being steered to foreign-owned rivals.

Nevin Knowles, owner of the Long Island Bone-fishing Lodge, argued that since the introduction of legislation to govern the industry, Bahamian-owned lodges have seen a major decrease in bookings.

"The only ones catching hell are the Bahamian-owned lodges," he told Tribune Business. "Every lodge in the south-east is basically Bahamian-owned, but American-owned lodges and booking agents don't seem to want Bahamians to own anything.

"They won't say the numbers, but every foreign-owned lodge is full to capacity; they aren't feeling anything. Most Americans when they come don't like to book direct; they go through a booking agent. A lot don't trust to send the money direct to the lodges. The booking agents only deal with certain lodges, and they steer the business in that direction. We don't get much of the Europeans because they tend to go to Belize and Mexico as they get direct flights there."

Mr Knowles argued that Bahamian-owned lodges were effectively being forced out of business completely or, in some instances, being bought out.

"All I did was kill my own business," he said. They wanted this for them. No booking agents will ever send clients our way unless you get American in front of you. I am down to nothing. I am contemplating selling and doing something different."

Mr Knowles acknowledged that he had originally opposed the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association's (BFFIA) president, Prescott Smith, in his campaign to introduce the industry's regulations, but had now "seen the light".

"We have to look at how much money is actually going into the Bahamian economy," he said. "Everything is booked in the US; all the money stays there. Check out how much they pay the guides. They are getting away from hiring independent guides and going in-house."

Cat Island fly fishing guide, Charles Fox, told Tribune Business: "There is no business. It's not looking good. I don't see anything on the horizon."

Arnette Chisolm, co-owner and operator of Chester Highway Inn Bone-Fish Lodge on Acklins, added: "Business has been so slow it's unbelievable. We're not looking for all the business, but give us some bookings. Right now there is no business."

Mr Smith, the BFFIA president, said he had predicted much of what the southern Bahamian industry is now experiencing.

He told Tribune Business: "This is what I have been saying all along. It was a part of the plan. Once Bahamians are out of business, foreigners move in to build or takeover and reap the profits. This industry is much bigger than what the Government was looking at."

Kerry Fountain, the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board's executive director, said anglers are still not able to apply and pay for their licenses online, which was causing inconvenience.

He told Tribune Business: "A lot of our hotel members are fly fishing lodges, and we were very active - as was the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association - in trying to help the Government at the time to pass the right legislation.

"My opinion is that I see nothing wrong with having legislation which states if you have more than two fly fishermen that you have a guide. I have to listen to both sides, the hotel members and the guides. I see nothing wrong with the guide requirement. One of the things that we were supposed to fix with the legislation is to allow the fly fishermen, whether they decide in Europe, Canada or the US, to be able to apply for their fishing license online and pay for it. That has not been fixed and is causing some inconvenience."

The fly fishing regulations require anglers over the age of 12, and 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. Mr Knowles argued yesterday that this should not be a flat rate but a percentage of the room rate.

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 also 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 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, not to mention increased costs.

Comments

sealice 2 months, 1 week ago

You situation may be dire but thinking the BFF has the answers is incorrect. They are part of the reason why you now get nothing.

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DillyTree 2 months, 1 week ago

You guys shot yourselves in the foot with demanding total Bahamianisation of the fly fishing industry. The government requirements of 2 anglers requiring the services of a guide and no foreign boats allowed to fish on the flats (even with permits) has effectively killed the fly fishing industry in the Bahamas. The fly-fishermen have gone elsewhere -- to places that are regulated, but not with the same restrictive nonsense that you've advocated for. And now you've got the gall to cry about it when you're the problem???? Typical entitled Bahamian attitude.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

When a fella can make $300-500 per day for snagging bonefish ...... Come on Man!!!!!!!!!!!

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

His suggestion of fishing licenses being a % of the room rate makes no sense.

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

You'll have to advertise and present in the way the American bahamas fishing lodge sites do. Does the tourism site link to the fishing resources?

Promote to booking agents. Simply promote no license required with local guide. Get presence in their magazines and trade shows. If you're not online, have nothing to say.

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm for licenses but I don't know how long a guide requirement for personal foreign fishing boats will hold up.

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The_Oracle 2 months, 1 week ago

Exactly what I expected the legislation to do, the opposite of what was intended. Typical, fits exactly with every thing the government (and Bahamians) has done to get the Bahamas exactly where it is. Purely by accident. And will they back off of it? hell no, they'll amend it further down the rabbit hole of failure.

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

Bahamian guides can come up with a shtick and be an attraction in themselves. I haven't seen any Bahamian guide videos. Maybe Europeans think guides don't speak English.

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

Long Island Bone fishing Losge doesn't show up when I search " Bahamas Fishing Lodge".

Got get Search Engine Optimization for your site if most booking are through that channel.

https://www.google.com/search?q=long+island+bone+fishing+lodge&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

http://longislandbonefishinglodge.com/

https://chestersbonefishlodge.com/

This article also has to come with statistical facts, not just personal observation. What is the BFFIA saying about Bahamian owned bs foreign and how the guides are benefitting?

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

Just add the cost of the fishing license to your room rate, then do it for them manually and have guests pick up from the front desk until the online option is available. I've never procured a fishing license off site when choosing fishing for a hotel activity. The desk for fishing did it where I got my rods. Your profiles on TripAdvisor and the rest can say fishing license included or NO FISHING LICENSE REQUIRED with local guides in the title (not that $15 really makes the difference)

Have a contact that internationals can call. Lodge owners can group together to have a foreign booking agent contact. Hustle your marketing.

Welcome to competition. If you can't compete now, I'm not sure what you'l have left after WTO.

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killemwitdakno 2 months, 1 week ago

Guides could work for charters too.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

Most of the patrons at these small rural lodges are repeat annual visitors ...... maybe this lodge owner has to step up his level of service ........... The Minister of Tourism is quiet on this hey?????

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Porcupine 2 months, 1 week ago

It's a big world out there. The Bahamas is a special place. Vision requires seeing outside the bounds of our small group of islands. We refuse to do that. We expect to set the rules, while not having the cutting edge sensibilities and education required to compete. Is there an aspect of our country where this doesn't hold true?

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happyfly 2 months, 1 week ago

Idiots saying things and trying to change the rules based on foolish emotions and ignorant entitlement. Any fool could see that the recent regulations would cause a backlash. The average foreign fly-fisherman is a wealthy independent professional or businessman and these Bahamian resort owners think they can push them around by getting some stupid lawyers involved ?? Next thing they'll be asking for jail-time ....

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VDSheep 1 month, 1 week ago

I don’t believe the fly fishing industry should be controlled by non-Bahamians – internally or externally ‘ by having it sold abroad to benefits foreign lodges. Whatever happened to fishing regulations – Fly fishing is a Bahamian resource – there is the need to have it sanctioned as a preferred Bahamian entity the whole ten yards lodges ‘ boats ‘ guides etc.

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