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‘Put Up The Fines For Poachers’

Michael Pintard

Michael Pintard

By Morgan Adderley

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

WHILE new Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard is calling for stricter penalties for poachers to be implemented, he stopped short of advocating for their vessels to be sunk.

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr Pintard suggested other avenues could be taken instead, such as harsher fines, imprisonment, and seizing the vessels.

However, he insisted that the overall decision would be made at the Cabinet level, not unilaterally by his ministry.

Mr Pintard declined to characterise the recent spate of poaching and illegal fishing incidents in the country as an “uptick” in such crimes. Instead, he acknowledged that these are “age-old” issues, and gave four measures the government could use to combat them.

On Sunday, 46 people on board a 70ft Dominican fishing vessel were apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for poaching and were found with a large quantity of illegal fisheries products.

“This has been a perennial problem that we have had,” Mr Pintard said. “It is a very serious problem that’s going to require us working on multiple fronts.

“One will be…from a legislative standpoint, we have to increase the penalties for persons that are poaching in our waters.”

Mr Pintard added that consultation on this matter has commenced. He also said that stakeholders have made recommendations on what they believe are the appropriate penalties; and noted that “in the not-too-distant future” the government will address this matter.

When asked for specifics, Mr Pintard said officials do not believe that the “present regime of penalties” is sending a strong enough message to poachers.

“We are going to avail ourselves of every possible remedy in the law, inclusive of stiffer fines as well as looking at imprisonment, et cetera. All options are on the table…and it has to be dramatic enough to send a message to boat captains and engineers, so that it serves as a disincentive for them taking a risk.”

When asked if such dramatic deterrents could include sinking boats, Mr Pintard instead pointed to alternative measures that could be more beneficial to the country.

While reiterating that he did not wish to pre-empt any future Cabinet decisions, Mr Pintard pointed to the fact that it could be better to seize such illegal vessels and recoup resources through selling them or using them in training exercises for marine experiments or studies.

Resources, Mr Pintard clarified, could include “both the content, which would include the marine products caught, equipment used, as well as the vessel.”

“To the extent that we can utilise (them) in a way that’s beneficial to the country that’s being savaged by what they are doing, then to me that would be the initial option that I would be interested in.

“But again, I’ll have further discussions. This is not going to be a decision made unilaterally by the ministry.”

The second strategy to be used to combat this problem is diplomacy, via discussions with the governments of the illegal fishermen.

When asked when the last talks were held between the Bahamas government and the government of the Dominican Republic, Mr Pintard did not point to a specific date, but said these discussions have been “ongoing”.

One such diplomatic tactic was calling for the Dominican Republic government to intervene by placing trackers on vessels. However, Mr Pintard said the RBDF has not found such devices on Dominican poaching vessels.

“(This suggests) either it’s not been done or these ships have removed them in the event that they were applied,” he said.

Mr Pintard added that the minister of foreign affairs has “seized every opportunity” during the last 13 months in office to raise the matter at meetings where officials from both countries were present.

The third measure, Mr Pintard said, is protecting the sector for Bahamian fishermen.

He described how the methods used by both poachers and foreign fishermen with work permits can prove harmful to the environment.

“We have to act resolutely in making sure we are not disadvantaging Bahamian fishermen in a sector that is designed for them in how we go about addressing the work permit issue. We must make sure that we protect this livelihood for us.

“Because it’s not just an issue of availability of workers, which some may make the case to government that they need to hire foreign workers…it is also the methods used by workers that some Bahamian companies seek to employ.

“According to those stakeholders who the ministry has been consulting with, their methods are damaging to the industry. In terms of how they break shells and leave conch shells for example, in locations that hinder or drive away conch from feeding there in future. The lack of attention to the size of what is caught, the use of compressors…despite what the law says.”

The fourth strategy is centred around improving the RBDF’s fleet and technology.

While commending their efforts in apprehending the recent spate of illegal fishing, Mr Pintard said the government is looking into increasing the fleet, improving their positioning, and seeking “what other technologies might assist us in policing the borders, inclusive in looking at the option of drones.”

According to Mr Pintard, one tactic used by poachers is the use of multiple dinghies, which dispatch from a single large “mother ship”. These dinghies then spread out across the Great Bahama Bank, fish, and then reconvene with the mother ship and go back into international waters.

Mr Pintard also regretted the fact that poaching out of season is affecting marine life negatively, and ultimately affecting the number of Bahamian fishermen will be able to export in the future.

“What we seek to do as a government is really to be responsive to these hardworking Bahamians who have helped sustain Family Island communities over time. And we’re going to work in tandem with them and other stake holders in making sure that we protect our country by protecting their livelihood.”

Comments

rawbahamian 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Increase their fines to 5 digits for each poacher and if not able will result in 5-7 yrs at Fox Hell Prison, sieze their boat and stock, sell the boat to local fishermen for pennies .

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scampi75 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Absolutely, increasing the fines however, I would push for zero tolerance with automatic confiscation of assets. The assets except the mother boat to be sold off, proceeds going to the Defense force budget, the mother boat to be stripped and sunk or scrapped, never to be used again. Our fishery resources are precious and we should protect them with passion!

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bogart 2 months, 2 weeks ago

AFTER CELEBRATING 45 YEARS OF SOVEREIGNTY.....WAVING THE BAHAMAINAN FLAG,...PUTTING IT ON YINNA SUIT COLLAR WID UTMOST PRIDE....NATIONAL PRIDE....MY BAHAMALAND....AND YINNA HAV TO CONSULT WITH YINNA .....CABINET LEVEL ...AT WHAT YINNA GAN DO WHEN YINNA ....CATCH AN INTRUDER IN YINNA FRONT ROOM...???????........MUDDA SIC DRED.......!!!!!! ...SO AFTER 45 YEARS...WHAT YINNA GAN DO ????? ... RUN BACK.... TO DA COLONIAL MASTERS.....PRIVY COUNCIL AN GETS INSTRUCTION ?????....HAV MORE CONVERSATIONS WITH THE ...INTRUDER WHO BREAK IN IN YA FRONT FRONT ROOM ???.....wid all due respect Minister.....after 45 years the answer is clearcut.

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Alex_Charles 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Take the biometrics of these people. EVERYONE coming into the country needs their biometrics taken. Fingers prints, picture and retina scan. Buy the same kiosks that US homeland security uses. We needs to keep track of these people who offend (and those that don't).

In the case of poachers doing massive fishing operations? Seize the vessels.

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hallmark 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Why is it that they seem so frightened to take the steps to protect the nation?

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The DR will never make any fishing/poaching agreements with the Bahamian Government ........WHY??????? ......... Because this is a global crime ring based in the DR but really controlled from the USA

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JackArawak 2 months, 2 weeks ago

confiscate Boat, Motor and Equipment. I don't care if you're Dominican fisherman or wealthy American on your "Hatteras" , confiscate all, get their biometrics and send them home. But I doubt the Bahamian gov has the guts to do that. They will continue to slap wrists and nothing will change.
In the early 90's I was working with the marine patrol and we arrested a group of Americans with 6 crawfish (hidden in the 22' runabout because they knew it was closed season) They were fined $1500. The next summer the SAME group was arrested again and this time they were fined $3000. Had the government confiscated their 71 Viking along with their equipment, the word would get out and either people would obey the seasons or not come. I don't care. You gotta get tough.

if you're wondering about the discrepancy in boats, the 22 was a local rental. The boat they entered the country in and subject to confiscation in my book was 71 feet and worth a lot of money.

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DaGoobs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Fines should be up to $500,000 for each offence and/or jail time and the boats should be forfeited to the Treasurer who can then auction them, sink them or use them for the benefit of the Bahamian people

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Seaman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. Mr Pintard, You just reach on the job and done talking bull.....How many other Ministers already said the same crap as you? Maybe you should look at who has interest in these vessels.....how are they able to know where the RBDF patrol routes are going to be......The only stakeholders you should be talking to are the fisherman, who's life's investments are being hurt......not the buyers. The previous Minister came to Abaco and didn't have the common sense to visit his office and his staff......that's how stupid he is. Minister Pintard, I know you will read the paper......connect and listen to the fishermen.

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SP 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Nobody is interested in Pintard's "ideas". Stop talking about it and DO SOMETHING!!

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