By SYANN THOMPSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
Dominican poachers who were arrested by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officials and the US Coast Guard this week were carrying some 30,000 pounds of illegally harvested marine products.
On Wednesday, HMBS Cascarilla under the command of Senior Lieutenant Samantha Hart along with the US Coast Guard arrested 17 suspected poachers on board the 76-foot Gerchard II in waters near the Cochinos Bank. The seized boat came into port yesterday at the RBDF Coral Harbour Base.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard told reporters at a press conference the poachers will have to face the brunt of the law.
“The vessel contained a catch estimated at 30,000 lbs of marine products illegally harvested. The RBDF expects to have the boat and its catch in port at the Coral Harbour Base by noon today (Thursday). Officers from our enforcement unit of the Department of Marine Resources will be on hand to process the catch,” Mr Pintard said.
The Tribune understands that the catch is worth in excess of a quarter million dollars in the Bahamian market and even more on the international market.
The Bahamas National Trust has described poaching by commercial fishermen from the Dominican Republic as “the greatest single threat to Bahamian seafood resources”. Mr Pintard believes the country has suffered “substantial” losses to its economy due to illegal poaching based on previous vessels that have been interdicted in Bahamian waters, but he says the government plans on using strict legislation to crack down on the crime.
“We assure the public and in particular, the fishing community that the government of The Bahamas will prosecute these offences to the fullest extent. Our work to the Fisheries Act, while ongoing, will be coming to Parliament very soon and will include provisions that deal with these types offences severely,” he said.
Mr Pintard previously announced that boats seized from Dominican poachers are being distributed to Bahamian fishermen affected by Hurricane Dorian. There are 36 vessels in total, some vessels are expected go to those in the sponging industry and five vessels are allocated to the national dive programme to increase Bahamian divers in the sector and others to fishermen.