The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) has been hired by the Ministry of Tourism and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to implement a sustainable economic model for fly fishing training and certification.
To help fulfill this mandate, BTVI is staging a series of workshops through a new curriculum focusing on the sustainability and technical requirements for environmentally-responsible fly fishing guidance.
New legislation governing fly fishing guides, known as the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2017, requires all Bahamian guides to be certified.
The Andros Sustainable Guide Training and Certification programme was launched on July 24, through a series of fact-finding and consultation meetings with guides, lodge operators and the wider community in North Andros, Central Andros, Mangrove Cay and South Andros.
BTVI's team is working closely with representatives from the Andros Town office of the Ministry of Tourism on the sustainable business model.
Following the trainer workshops, the fly fishing guides from Andros will return to their respective communities as BTVI instructors, offering workshops for new guides and those in the field who are seeking a higher level of certification.
The pilot project is currently specific to Andros. It is designed to achieve several things, including reviewing and revising the 2010 market analysis to determine the level of economic impact the sport is having in the Bahamas; standardise the fly fishing guides' training programme; and create a professional and internationally-recognised fly fishing guide training and certification course.
A key focus is to train guides and lodge operators to provide the most environmentally-responsible tourism experience in an already competitive industry. This includes the elimination of toxic chemicals and cleaners, and improving waste management, particularly with regard to plastics and other trash that can affect fish populations.
Leroy Sumner, programme manager and BTVI's associate vice-president of academic affairs, said the initiative aims to ensure fly fishing guides remain a significant contributor to the Andros economy.
"Training the fly fishing guides is only a part of our project," he said. "My colleagues and I are also looking at other economic development opportunities, both within the fly-fishing business as well as any associated commercial possibilities that could strengthen the Andros economy. Hopefully this economic model can be used on other islands across the Bahamas, as well as the Caribbean."
Dr Robert W. Robertson, BTVI's president, added that the fly fishing initiative advances the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), to which BTVI is a signatory. PRME's mission is in part to transform management education, research and thought leadership globally, developing learning communities.
The pilot programme is also expected to determine the certification standards to be achieved and the level of the designation. The training and certification programme will be based within BTVI's management structure on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Fly Fish Industry Association (BFFIA).
James MacGregor, workshop facilitator, said the training programme places major emphasis on understanding standards that include environmental responsibility.
"While it is critical to train new guides as technically competent in fly fishing, it is also crucial to protect the precious sport fishing resources of Andros if we wish to sustain an industry that can continue to provide jobs and revenue for future generations," said Mr MacGregor.
"The level of marine pollution, overfishing, poor fishing practices and, more recently, global warming, should not be allowed to devastate fly-fishing activities as they have in other destinations."
The pilot programme is designed as a model that can be rolled out across other Bahamian islands. The training and certification process will be monitored and evaluated to respond to different island conditions and market demands.
Its advocates expect that a sustainable business model for the fly fishing industry will also result in achieving higher levels of visitor satisfaction.