By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association's (BFFIA) president yesterday called for a national development plan for the industry, voicing concerns that its regulatory regime needs to be strengthened.
Prescott Smith told Tribune Business that having recently attended a sports fishing workshop in Cuba, which explored the creation of a national plan for its industry, The Bahamas should likewise craft something similar for sports and fly fishing.
"They are developing a national plan, right down to the community level, but here it's always a fight," he told Tribune Business. "It's so important, but the special interests who control our economy never want this country to be developed to where it involves empowering ordinary Bahamians.
"If you're talking about developing a national plan, for instance the way Cuba is, then you're talking about doing it from the grassroots level of local ownership. That's how critical it is. We have never as a country sat down to develop such a plan because it goes against the very way our economy is controlled, and that is by a small few."
As for the industry's present regime, the controversial Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Flats Fishing) Regulations 2017, Mr Smith added: "Even though the legislation was passed they have done nothing to strengthen it. Regardless, we are going to continue to press on."
Tribune Business has previously reported on how the regulations have effectively divided Bahamian guides and bonefish lodge owners/operators, who are both Bahamian and foreign, into two separate camps due to some of the requirements.
One of the most contentious was the requirement for a ratio of one 'certified guide' to every two anglers if they are fishing from a boat. Mr Smith acknowledged the implementation challenges produced by the regulations as there is no online portal or payment mechanism for foreign anglers to obtain and pay for licences.
Still, Mr Smith said the Association was working to establish a national training programme for fly fishing guides at BAMSI. "That is a huge deal because what it does is, while you have the legislation, you must also have the training," he said.
"We are talking about Bahamians becoming owners of the tourism sector. We are talking about training people to develop actual skills, not just in being a guide but other forms of eco-tourism."