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‘Tragic And Ironic Reality’ Over Expat Fisheries Workers

By NEIL HARTNELL and YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporters

A BAHAMIAN fisherman last night confirmed the long-standing “split” with the sector’s major wholesalers and processors over what he described as “a tragic and ironic reality”.

Paul Maillis, the National Fisheries Association (NFA) director, told Tribune Business that planned changes to fisheries law that his organisation supports had highlighted a decades-long rift with other parts of the industry concerning the use of expatriate labour (see other article on Page 1).

The proposed Fisheries Bill is being opposed by the Coalition For Responsible Fishing (CFRF), a group whose members include the likes of Paradise Fisheries and Geneva Brass, on the basis that barring legitimate expatriate workers from crewing on 100 percent-owned Bahamian commercial fisheries vessels would retard the sector’s jobs, production and export earnings.

The Coalition, advocating for the major wholesale and export houses, argued there was insufficient qualified labour to operate large New Providence-based fishing vessels without foreign workers who specialise in diving and potting in particular.

Errol Davis, of Fish Farmers Ltd and a Coalition member, told Tribune Business: “We came together based on an urgent need to address misinformation in the industry; primarily to address the misinformation about legitimate non-Bahamians and other matters of concern in the fishing industry. “Group affiliates are not members of the other fisher groups. We consider affiliates more progressive in our approach to expanding the business in a sustainable way, with due regard to conservation and preservation. We are in the process of formalising the organisation.”

However, Mr Maillis said those foreign nationals relied on by the Coalition’s members largely came from the Dominican Republic - the nation whose boats and fishermen have frequently been arrested and hauled before the Bahamian courts for poaching in this nation’s waters.

Suggesting it was “ironic” that nationals from the country blamed for depleting The Bahamas’ fisheries stocks now stood to benefit from the Coalition’s recommendations, Mr Maillis urged its members to encourage their Dominican employees to become “invested in this country” as Bahamian citizens rather than relying on work and spousal permits for their lawful employment.

“There is a rift,” said Mr Maillis, whose Association backs the new Fisheries Bill. “This goes back several years where several fisheries processing owners decided to go and hire mainly Dominican fishermen to work on their sea food processing vessels. That’s been their business model.

“The National Fisheries Association has always been fighting against this for years - many, many years, even before it was formed. If you speak to Bahamian fishermen across the country, they don’t like the reality and see it as something that goes against the law, the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act.

“The problem really isn’t the Act as it is. It speaks about Bahamian fishermen working on commercial vessels. It’s that the Immigration Act provides the loophole for anyone with a valid work permit or spousal permit to work in any industry....... It seems like Bahamian women only have eyes for Dominican men.”

Mr Maillis said Bahamian fishermen, who have “been on the front line dealing with the implications and impact of Dominican poaching for several decades”, were naturally suspicious of those who were now here possessing valid Immigration documents.

Suggesting that many may have just come off poaching vessels prior to arriving in The Bahamas, he added that local fishermen were often suspicious that Dominicans working on Bahamian-owned boats were still in touch with their countrymen and relaying advice on the location of the vest fishing grounds and how to avoid detection by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

Denying that “race” had anything to do with Bahamian fishermen’s concerns, Mr Maillis told Tribune Business: “What I would say to those owners is: If there’s any of their Dominican employees who have been here long enough, let them apply for citizenship.

“If they have a family and children here, they can apply for citizenship and live here and work on Bahamian fishing vessels. If they only have a work permit, as long as their owners need them they will be sending money back home. We’re not interested in that type of model. We want people invested in our country to be working on our fishing vessels.

“Their country [the Dominican Republic] is responsible for the worst crisis in our fisheries history; the poaching crisis. It’s an ironic reality that the country responsible for taking our fisheries resources is able to export its citizens to work on our boats. It’s a tragic and ironic reality for many fishermen, and has become unpalatable.”

Arguing that the Coalition and its members are “in the minority” over their views, Mr Maillis acknowledged the fisheries sector had issues with finding a sufficient supply of qualified labour but said these were no greater than for other industries.

“Are there challenges? Yes. There are challenges across the board in this country when it comes to sustainable labour, but fisheries is one of the few industries where Bahamians have a substantial stake and control of the outcome,” he said.

“Where is there going to be a place for the dwindling Bahamian fisherman if we don’t work to protect it? Some may say it’s affirmative action, but it’s about enforcing the law.”

Comments

mandela 3 months ago

Yes, very good if these fishermen are to lazy, cheap and greedy to train Bahamians, then make them pay with $5000. work permits per crew.

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realitycheck242 3 months ago

The Coalition For Responsible Fishing needs to get real. Set up the training for young Bahamians and graduate a few hundred each year to man the fishing boats. Go into the high schools and recruit young students while offering a payed stipend while traning them and watch the interest and positive results from our young people. That Bahamas is for Bahamians and i support the government with the Ban. Stop looking at your bottom line profits to the detriment of our unemployed youth. The quoted figure of 1,000 persons will be hurt, and up to $8m lost, if planned legal reforms stop foreign nationals working on Bahamian-owned boats is a bunch of BS. I say to the coalition, Where is your patriotism. The same foreigners you now seek to hire are using are techniques detrimental to our reefs while fishing and marrying Bahamian women to circumvent the Law. Not to mention the aggressive behavior of their countrymen towards our Defence force officers. With the right training our young people can pick up the slack

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SP 3 months ago

realitycheck242 is 100% right. The fishing industry should be regularized for Bahamians only. Dominicans will and can always only be expected to be true to their own people.

The depth of unbridled greed from The Coalition For Responsible Fishing, the sector’s major wholesalers and processors is undeniable. These people are such money hogs, they can't see beyond their own immediate bottom lines, and be-dammed with the rest of the country and future of the nation's fisheries.

realitycheck242 comments and suggestions couldn't be made any better!

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realitycheck242 3 months ago

Sp ......at the age of eighteen i joined the organization responsible for patrolling our territorial waters. I have seen first hand the destruction of our reefs by the dominicans on a single trip.. The hostilities and the scale of their fisheries take from our waters on a single trip is mind boggling. It would take a Bahamian boat many trips to equal the catch of the dominicans. They some times come in Ship convoys and escape into cuban waters. They use hundreds of little rafts amd dingies to load their mother ships.They use scuba Tanks which are illegal. They take undersized lobster and vacuum any and every living thing on the sea floor. They have destroyed every thing in their waters and now they have taken aim on destroying the Bahamas. They have refined their techniques with longline fishing which involves hundreds of fish hooks on a single fishing lines and coordinate their locations and illegal activities with their countrymen located Bahamian fishing vessels to avoid capture. They sometime fire gun shots at bahamian fishing vessels to get them to leave the area. This article really hits home with me because this is one legislation the gov has gotten right. .Our young people could certainly fill the gap with the right training..

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JokeyJack 3 months ago

AGREED. The laws which make it virtually illegal to pay a Bahamian a decent wage need to be repealed. The fishing industry and most other industries. If you are a Bahamian, you are expected to make $6.25 an hour and consider yourself lucky.

We can begin by banning all flights and ships from Europe (except UK which we don't have authority to ban) and give all of them 3 years to sell and leave. They are destroying us with their stupid tax laws and so-called money laundering laws. They will eventually destroy us completely. It is way past time to fight back, even with our dying breath. This may sound radical - but what they are doing to us is radical - and it just doesn't seem life threating or violent because it does not shed blood. However, it is in fact worse than any violence inflicted with a machete.

Mr. Turnquest should see the wisdom of this way of thinking now - but it is too late for him to act since he lost his position. He should see that those opposed to you will use any arsenal against you, whether or not it makes an ounce of sense. The allegations against him may be entirely false and unfounded. Who knows? At the end of the day, those spreading that info know all too well that the burden of proof is not on them. They knew he (or anyone) would have to resign in order to avoid embarrassment. That's how it works - and they don't care, as long as they win. The same with the EU. Do you think they care about the average Bahamian? Of course not. Yes, we continue to roll over and play dead like a well trained dog.

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DWW 3 months ago

a few nassau syncophants against the blue collar family islanders? just par for course here.

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CFRF 3 months ago

The Coalition has on both occasions worked with the NTA and the Ministry to develope, recruit , train , participate and sponsored up to $50 per day for any student that completed the progam in 2016. Also,in 2019,during the latest effort by the Ministry, Coalition members met with the Minister and committed to repeating the same efforts. In fact the the 2019 training effort was a carbon copy of the 2016 Training Program developed and coordianated by members of the Coalition and Mr. Peter Guilcud. The Coalition has as its members fishermen and boat owners as well as persons in the wholesale and retail market.

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