By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE crawfish season has gotten off to a rocky start for fishermen in the southern Bahamas according to Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) vice-president Keith Carroll, who blamed poachers for leaving the fishing grounds “almost completely dead”.
The crawfish season began August 1 and runs to March 31.
“Fishermen in the northern Bahamas are doing alright. The southern Bahamas where the poachers fish all year round is almost completely dead. We weren’t expecting anything because of what we saw with the poaching going on there and it turned out to be just as we feared,” said Mr Carroll.
Mr Carroll suggested that beefed up daily patrols by the Defence Force during the closed season are needed to help curb poaching as the government works to draft legislation which will introduce stiffer penalties.
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard said last week the Fisheries Act is currently being reviewed by an advisory committee which will present recommendations to the government in October over possible stiffer penalties for poachers.
Forty-six Dominican poachers were recently fined over $3 million over poaching convictions. The Dominicans were arrested by RBDF vessel HMBS Madeira aboard their vessel “Ronnye”, approximately 20 nautical miles south east of Cay Lobos on July 8. The men were charged with illegal foreign fishing; possession of a grouper less than three pounds; possession of fresh crawfish during the closed season; possession of undersized crawfish and possession of prohibited apparatus.
Mr Carroll said local fishermen were watching closely to see what prison term could be imposed if the fines were not paid, telling Tribune Business the BCFA was advocating that lengthier prison terms be imposed on poachers.
“The fishermen are wondering if they don’t pay the fine what kind of jail time they would get. It’s good to to see that someone realised what they are doing and is putting their foot down,” said Carroll
“The Fisheries Act is being revised right now. Myself and some other fishermen as well as different groups are a part of that process. We are making recommendations for stiffer penalties. It’s going to Parliament hopefully in October and hopefully it will pass and we will see a lot of changes in the fishing industry. We are recommending the fines for poaching will be higher and that significant jail time be imposed on the captain among other things. I don’t know if they will approve all of our recommendations but I know whatever we are asking for is for the betterment of our country and to protect the industry for future generations,” Carroll said.