By YOURI KEMP
The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) is teaming with the Ministry of Tourism to certify the "new generation of fly-fishing guides" that is key to growing the industry.
The two public sector entities, unveiling the fly fishing certification initiative that will launch in January 2020, also disclosed they are planning to develop a curriculum for an associate degree in ecotourism.
Ellison "Tommy" Thompson, the Ministry of Tourism's deputy director-general, said: "We see this as a great opportunity to get more Bahamians, especially young Bahamians, involved in this huge industry that contributes greatly to tourism sustainability efforts."
The certification initiative was yesterday backed by Prescott Smith, The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association's (BFFIA) president, who told Tribune Business: "It's pretty much needed. We need a whole new generation of guides to grow the industry. With that level of training the country will benefit more than we have done so in the past.
"Also, the research component will allow all to be able to participate in it as well from BAMSI. What was lacking over 20-plus years, the way it is being structured now means that you will not only have training on campus but support for apprenticeship programmes, which is badly needed."
Mr Smith continued: "This would also allow for the manufacturers and equipment companies - whether it be rods, reels, clothing, boats and engines, you will have a support after you get the certification. You would also have different companies participating in the training process.
"We were always doing it hanging from the cliff without the real support needed. If BAMSI can tap into relationships that we would not ordinarily be able to make, then it would be a wonderful thing."
Mr Smith added that there are about 400 fly fishing guides in The Bahamas. Given that their average age is between 45 and 55 years-old, he said the industry needs a new cadre of younger guides in their 20's to come in and take over the sector.
Denny Rankine, the Association's vice-president, said: "What this certification programme does is it enables us to have a chance to engage the younger generation to make the industry more accessible if we take them through a certification process at BAMSI."
The Ministry of Tourism's release added: "With the expansion of the fly fishing industry in mind, the fly fishing certification programme was designed not only to fulfill the mandatory requirements of Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) regulations, which mandates that all fly fishing guides must be certified, but also to ensure that guides are responsible and armed with sufficient knowledge on preserving the environment and the sector."
"Fly fishing is a big part of the tourism offering and, to be a certified guide, adding that academic and scientific input into what you do is important for the sustainability of the sector," said Dr Raveenia Roberts-Hanna, BAMSI's executive director. "We are happy to have that stamp of approval from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism."