By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian fishermen would "welcome" an extension to the Nassau Grouper season, but the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance's (BCFA) president is not "overly optimistic" it will happen.
Adrian LaRoda said that in 2012, the BCFA lobbied the Christie administration to extend the season by 30 days, but that request was ultimately rejected following strong opposition from conservationists.
The season traditionally closes on December 1 for three months, reopening at the end of February. Mr LaRoda said the BCFA has not had any formal discussions with the Minnis administration on the issue, but said it had been "an ongoing request".
"That would be welcomed if it does happen, but we have had these discussions before a number of times and, at the 11th hour, the Government has denied the request," he recalled.
"In light of the current situation, particularly with these storms and the time it will take for fishermen to recover, that would be welcomed if it happens. I am not really confident that it will because of the clout the opponents have. It would be welcomed but I'm not overly optimistic."
His comments came after Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources, said the Government was giving consideration to a new extension request by fishermen.
Back in 2012, the BCFA had made its request to mitigate against the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the industry. With Hurricane Irma having dealt a "major blow" to the 2017-2018 crawfish season, Mr LaRoda said that consideration to an extension should once again be given.
"Grouper is a priced commodity and Bahamians want it. Why not extend the season?" he argued. "Fish science, like everything else, is not hard and fast. You will find some grouper still spawning before the season is closed, and even after the season is opened.
"It doesn't necessarily have to close in December; it could close in January. Extending the season would help greatly in easing the burden off some of the communities which have been impacted by the loss of the crawfish season."
Mr LaRoda added: "Fishermen understand the need for conservation. Fishermen respect the closed season for the Nassau grouper more than anyone else. People think that it is the commercial fishermen who are taking fish out of season and breaking the law, when it is really the recreational fishermen.
"There are some who want this thing enacted in the fisheries regulations and our contention is that it shouldn't. People need to eat. I'll be damned if I see our fishermen starve while our sea is teeming with fish."