By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORTY-SIX people on board a Dominican fishing vessel were apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force on Sunday for poaching.
This came two days after six Americans aboard a 63-foot pleasure craft were arrested by RBDF officers on Friday for violating the Bahamas National Trust Act after they were caught with fish in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which is a no-take zone.
The RBDF said the latest arrest came after the agency received information that three foreign vessels were in the area of Guinchos Cay. HMBS Madeira, under the command of Senior Lieutenant William Sturrup, was immediately dispatched to the area to investigate. A 70ft steel hull Dominican fishing vessel named “Ronnie” was apprehended approximately 20 nautical miles south east of Cay Lobos with 46 Dominican fishermen on board.
“Further investigations resulted in the discovery of a large quantity of fishery products onboard,” the RBDF said. “Two other Dominican fishing vessels that were in the vicinity fled the area into Cuban waters.”
In relation to the Americans, marines spotted the foreign fishing vessel while conducting a patrol approximately one and a half miles southeast of Warderick Wells Cay on Friday.
Upon searching the American-registered craft, marines discovered an “undetermined amount of scale fish on board”. The men were subsequently cautioned and taken into custody.
Patrol craft P-45, coxswained by Chief Petty Officer Theodore Thompson, was dispatched to the area. The vessel brought the men and their fishery products to New Providence on Saturday morning.
BNT park warden Brent Burrows expressed his frustration with people fishing in the protected Exuma Park and claiming to be ignorant about the law.
“As a Bahamian, and a park warden, it’s disheartening that we still deal with poachers on a near regular basis,” he said.
“Despite the park boundaries being marked on most every electronic chart, a chart-book, and cruising guides, people still take their chances; abusing the rules of the park. The story always plays out more or less the same – the crew pleads ignorance, claim they didn’t know the rules. I’m sick of that story and becoming less and less tolerant to hearing the same old tune.”
On June 16, the RBDF apprehended four Dominican fishermen for poaching. These men have since been charged in court.
Also last month, marines and the park warden apprehended two Bahamians in possession of over $160,000 worth of drugs in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
The drugs were turned over to police. The suspects, who pleaded not guilty, were remanded to the Department of Correctional Services. This case is currently continuing.
The RBDF also noted that Friday’s apprehension occurred “shortly after” the closing ceremony of a week-long Marine Conversation Workshop for law enforcement officers held at the RBDF Base.
This workshop was hosted by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation.
The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, established in 1959, was the world’s first protected area of its kind. A complete no-take zone by both land and sea; the park is known for its beauty, anchorages, and marine environment, according to the Bahamas National Trust.
To report poaching, contact the park warden on VHF09, or call the Park Office at 1-(242)-601-7438.