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Fishing Industry: Time To Be Tough

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Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

FISHERMEN faced with repeated threats from Dominican poachers said they were “extremely disappointed” with the lukewarm stance taken by Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield in the government’s efforts to end the illegal practise in Bahamian waters.

As officials from the Dominican Republic have given assurances previously to cooperate with this country in discouraging poaching, Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance and the Spanish Wells Fishing Association yesterday said no reliance should be placed on their promises.

“They have shown no willingness to cooperate with us, it is time we do the same,” both organisations said in a strongly worded statement released in response to Mr Henfield’s latest comments on the poaching dilemma.

On Tuesday, the minister said Dominican officials are concerned about lengthy prison sentences given to fishermen found guilty of poaching in Bahamian waters.

He said this concern was raised in a recent meeting between The Bahamas government and a delegation from the Dominican Republic when they also made commitments to assist in discouraging the practice of illegal fishing in Bahamian waters.

The officials further pledged, among other things, to install indicators in fishing vessels coming out of that country to better monitor their movements. He also said Dominican officials were warned about poachers becoming more aggressive at sea when confronted by Bahamian authorities.

This comes as two separate arrests of poachers occurred within a week.

“We write to openly express our sentiments to the people of the Bahamas and the minister of foreign affairs regarding the latest series of arrests by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force of poachers, specifically poachers from the Dominican Republic who shot at and in one case rammed and extensively damaged a RBDF vessel,” the organisations said yesterday.

“The Bahamas fishing community and fishing families in general are disappointed in the statement from the minister of foreign affairs published in the newspapers, and would have expected a stronger position in defence of her citizens, her courts and her sovereignty. “Illegal fishing is just one breach of the laws of the Bahamas, however these breaches result in losses to our economy of tens of millions of dollars annually, threats to our status as a country with a sustainable marine ecosystem and most important, the threats to the lives of fishermen.

“As fishermen we face unending threats with little support from the agencies charged to protect us or organisations who claim to want to do so. Therefore it is incumbent upon us as fisher folk to formally state that we are extremely disappointed as lukewarm verbiage translates to no tangible action particularly when there is sufficient evidence that poachers from the Dominican Republic are aided and sanctioned by their government to carry out this fisheries terrorism against the Bahamas.

“Previously the minister in essence instructed us, fishermen, to wave the white flag and retreat and allow our seas to be raped and plundered by the pirates of Puerto Plata, all while we try to recover from the loss’s suffered from two devastating hurricanes and other restrictions.”

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force - for the second time in a week - arrested a group of Dominican fishermen for illegally operating in Bahamians seas. Two Dominican small, go-fast type boats were apprehended at 11am on Monday just off North-East Point, Inagua by the RBDF while on routine patrol. Onboard were seven Dominican fishermen along with several air compressors and containers of gasoline.

A week ago, on December 11, another seven Dominican fishermen were arrested by the RBDF off Inagua. They have since been charged before the courts on several counts resulting in sentences up to nine months and $413,000 in fines.

The fisheries groups continued: “The government of the DR has made numerous promises to monitor their fishing fleet with vessel monitoring systems, they have signed numerous agreements to curb poaching by their nationals, they have made numerous promises to punish any citizen that did not adhere to the fisheries laws.

“. . . No reliance should be placed in any assurance given by the Dominican Republic. They have shown no willingness to cooperate with us, it is time we do the same.

The government of the Bahamas must take a hard stance once and for all against this threat, ‘soft words’ from the minister of foreign affairs will not allay our fears for the future for our children.”

In 2012, then Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, then Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V Alfred Gray, then Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder and now deceased National Security Minister Bernard Nottage held bilateral talks in Santo Domingo. At the time Mr Mitchell said the Dominican government was receptive about the concerns raised by Bahamian officials regarding poaching.

At the time he said the government needed to move on with the discussions, adding there would be greater enforcement. He said officials were cautiously optimistic that there would be changes regarding poaching.

However, Mr Henfield said Tuesday no agreement was ever finalised or signed leading to the need for there to be one now.

Comments

tell_it_like_it_is 1 year, 10 months ago

Hey fishermen... why don't you ask Henfield to go on a fishing trip with you? I'm sure when he gets shot at by Dominican poachers he will be singing a different tune! smh

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bogart 1 year, 10 months ago

MINISTER NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSING DA DOMINICANS.....ON DERE..... ACRES OF ....GARBAGE...PLASTIC...PLASTIC TRASH......DOMINICANS HAVE ON DERE BEACHES AN....FLOATING ON SOUTHERN SHORES..........WHICHIN...GA N ....WINDS UP FLOATING IN BAHAMIAN PRISTINE.....WATERS.....REEFS.......DESTROYING.....ENTIRE BAHAMIAN FISHERIES....GULLS ...AN SEA BIRDS EATING....FISH....WHICHININ......EATING....PARTICLES OF PLASTIC...IT AINT DA FISH DA MINISTER .....NEEDS TO TALKS ABOUT.......HE NEEDS TO GET REAL AN ADDRESS ALL DAT NASTY PLASTICS ON DOMINICAN.....SHORES.....FROM COMING INTO BAHAMIAN WATERS...!!!.,.,.,!!

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joeblow 1 year, 10 months ago

Our politicians continue to confirm their ignorance every time they open their pie holes!

Sink the Dominican ships and I suggest we stop importing items from the Dominican Republic too!

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scampi75 1 year, 10 months ago

Once again we have a Government with no balls! The strongest possible message should be sent to the Dominicans. If they continue to rape our resources, ie young, undersize, out of season fish and lobster, then soon it really wont matter. Reasonable prison times, hefty fines and total confiscation of assets. Hit them where it hurts, in the wallet. The mother shi0ps should be cleaned, towed out in the ocean and with much publicity, blown to bits and sunk. Don't keep the them tied up to a dock to rust, don't give them back, eliminate them! The Dominicans have no regard for sustainability or Sovereignty and apparently, never will!

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shonkai 1 year, 10 months ago

Does this mean we actually still fish here? Why then do we only get swai and tilapia and salmon in restaurants, and hardly any grouper or wahoo or snapper?

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 10 months ago

Fishermen, in another 3 1/2 years you can ink ya fingah. Thats all you gonna get. Dont worry it comes off in a few days.

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sealice 1 year, 10 months ago

Consecutive governments ....ESPECIALLY the PLP's handling of the Cuban Act of War against the Bahamas and HMBS Flamingo attack and repeatedly doing nothing to Dominican Poaching which considering they attack our fishermen and our RBDF are acts of war.... Yet nothing we have them by the short and curlies and have the resources of the US Coast Guard but still nothing.... they can't run the country... they can't protect the country..... they can't do jaqshit yet people still vote them in....

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pingmydling 1 year, 10 months ago

We Dominicans smart or what eh? Darron Henriquez ( his real name) is one of us. i so sorry for dumb Bahamians.

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

Well maybe the Bahamas needs to hurry up and join the WTO. Because once they are a member, there will be no such thing as ‘poaching Dominican fishermen. As a member nation the Bahamas will be required to share any commodity it has in excess with other membership nations. And since the world believes that the Bahamas has an abundance of seafood, the Dominicans must be welcomed to take their fair share. The same will apply to aragonite, sand and even jobs, as a matter of speaking.

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DDK 1 year, 10 months ago

We expect all too much from our Government Ministers. Most of them, no matter their experience, are eminently unqualified for the positions they accept at our expense.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 10 months ago

What did Hendfield do on the RBDF for 30 years????? ........ Did he really fight poaching on the frontline or was he an Office paper pusher?????? ........... He does not appear as credible, connected, and knowledgeable of the plight of Bahamian fishermen. poaching, and the RBDF as Dames with crime (RBPF).

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