Foreign Fisherman Bar In Legal Battle

* Wholesalers, boat owners team to fight reforms

* Fisheries Act 'unconstitutional, discriminatory'

* Allege law's supporters will soon 'not gloat'



Tribune Business Reporters

Top fisheries wholesalers have teamed with boat owners and foreign workers in a bid to overturn recent legal reforms passed by Parliament that ban the latter from working in the sector,.

Paradise Fisheries and Percy Roberts, Geneva Brass Seafood's principal, are among 10 plaintiffs named in a January 8, 2021, summons that urges the Supreme Court to declare the ban contained in the Fisheries Act 2020 and Immigration Act changes as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The wholesalers, who are joined by various fishing boat-owning corporate entities, two Dominican fishermen working legally in this nation and their Bahamian wives, are ultimately seeking a "permanent injunction" from the court to prevent the Government from implementing the provisions in the new Acts that they deem offensive.

The summons, filed by Sears & Company, the law firm of ex-attorney general Alfred Sears, is focused on two parts of the Fisheries Act - sections 31 and 32 - that bar foreign fishermen - even those in The Bahamas legally with work and spousal permits, or permanent residency, from working on Bahamian-owned fishing vessels.

It argues that these create "arbitrary and discriminatory treatment" for the two wives, Maria Jackson and Raquel Anthonya Major-Perez, as the reforms deprive them of support by their husbands in violation of numerous parts of the Bahamian constitution. The summons also alleges that the legislative changes have robbed their husbands of their "unrestricted right to work".

The summons, in particular, targets the constitution's article 26, which prohibits discrimination on race or ethnic grounds. Other articles cited include those related to the individual's freedom; protection from inhumane treatment; and protection for the privacy of the home and other property.

The legal papers argue that the Fisheries Act and Immigration Act also violate treaties that The Bahamas has signed on to, and result in "arbitrary and unlawful interference with family life" by introducing treatment "inconsistent with principles prevailing in democratic societies".

Other arguments allege that the bar will undermine the operations of the named wholesalers and fishing boat vessels, depriving them of the ability to hire expatriate labour that is present in The Bahamas legally while rival operators "have a pool of abundant and available professional commercial fishing divers in their islands".

Adding that the plaintiffs "had a reasonable expectation that they would have been consulted" before the legal reforms were made, the summons said the wholesalers and boat owners had agreed to work with the Government to support the creation of a national dive programme at the National Training Agency and offer apprenticeship initiatives to help The Bahamas solve its labour shortages.

Mr Sears yesterday said the summons "raises important constitutional questions" given the threat posed to the "livelihood" of his clients. They are also seeking an injunction, or stay, to prevent the reforms from being implemented before the main trial is heard.

Michael Pintard, minister of agriculture and marine resources; Elsworth Johnson, minister with responsibility for Immigration, and Carl Bethel QC, the attorney general, are named as respondents.

Errol Davis, a spokesperson for the Coalition For Responsible Fishing (CFRF), of which Paradise Fisheries and Geneva Brass Seafood, said: “Some of the local fishermen will not gloat when they realise that there are other portions of the [Fisheries] Act that will adversely affect them.

"The restrictions from fishing within a certain radius of other fishermen's lobster condos and traps, essentially allowing a lease of portions of the sea bed with associated high financial penalties, along with the additional financial burden of installing monitoring equipment and hosting observers at their own cost.”

However, the Fisheries Act's supporters remained defiant. Keith Carroll, president of the National Fisheries Association, said: “I guess the Government would be going to court to fight against the CFRF. They are taking the government to court, not us. This Act is a good thing. We have to reserve this for future generations.”

Mr Carroll said he has seen the damage Dominican fishermen have done to the seabed, adding that “almost every Bahamian diver can tell you about how they operate".

Philip Neilly, owner of the fishing vessel Beyond Measure from the Current, Eleuthera, said: “These Dominicans come in here and destroy our waters like they did their waters. They cracked the conch on the bottom, just destroying the bottom itself.” He said by doing this they destroy the conch bed and the breeding ground for other marine life.

Responding to the legal challenge that the CFRF is mounting, Mr Neilly said: “It's unconstitutional for them being here from the break. Go find another job. That's how I feel about it. We have to reserve our fishing industry for generations to come.”

Ralph Murray, owner of the fishing vessel, The Electa, said: “If we're speaking solely upon the terms of Dominicans fishing in The Bahamas, I am 100 percent in support of the Fisheries Act. This should have been done 25 years ago and it might have resolved some of the current issues that we're faced with now.

"This is only a result of not dealing with the problem 25 years ago. That doesn't change the fact that if it was right not to allow them fishing privileges then, then it's right not to allow them fishing privileges now. To me it's unbelievable that one of our few natural resources we're allowing to be compromised.

“What happens is the Dominicans that have legal status here, during the offseason they return to the Dominican Republic and fish on boats coming out of the Dominican Republic in our offseason. So they're getting two bites at the apple one time.”

Kevin Deveaux, owner of the fishing vessel, the Lu Lu, said of Dominicans married to Bahamian women: “We don't want them. We don't want them to be here to fish. If they want to be in this country they could find something else to do.”


SP 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Keep the Dominicans out at all cost! They didn't care about overfishing their own waters out and will care even less about our laws protecting our fisheries!

Let them take their Bahamian wives to the Dominican Republic and take care of them!


Bahamianbychoice 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Given the fishing industry has the lowest percentage of legal expat participation as compared to other industries in the country, like construction or the hotels for example. Of the already low percentage an even smaller amount are originally from the DR. I don’t understand the reasoning by the National Fisheries Association or quite frankly the Government. It really does appear targeted and like a few have something to gain from the passing of this law. The amount of expat fishermen working legally could not create the issues they are accusing them of as they simply are too small in number. This appears to be an attempt at bending the level of business in favour of those represented by The National Fisheries Association.


C2B 1 month, 3 weeks ago

What makes one fisherman better than another? You are all destroying the natural marine life for your personal gain. I don't eat seafood as it doesn't taste good enough to overcome the guilt of killing for profit. And if I have to put a half pound of onions and tomato on it so it tastes good, it's probably crap! I hear from Bahamians that the large Conch are a thing of the past and see it as an indicator that the ecosystem is stressed. That should be the concern. Not whom Bahamian Women choose to marry. Let me define what fishing means in a tourist economy; rich people paying thousands of dollars for catch and release privileges. That employs tour operators, hotels, guides, restaurants etc.


DWW 1 month, 3 weeks ago

someone just git duped into paying heavy legal bill without a chance of sucess,


FrustratedBusinessman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Guess we need to have foreign MPs, police, and even a foreign Prime Minister too....the lawyer who suckered these people out of money has no soul.


Bahamianbychoice 1 month, 3 weeks ago

There are already foreign police, teachers, doctors, nurses, constructions workers...even the Head of Prosecution at the AG's office I believe is foreign. All countries include expats in driving an economy. This law is outside all covenants The Bahamas has signed onto with the international community, and not in alignment with the Economic Recovery Committee's recommendations. This is simply driven off an agenda with no merit. You can't have it both ways...you cannot be cherry picking with an immigration policy and have your hand out asking for loans to the international community.


FrustratedBusinessman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Please report any foreign police that you know to the Commissioner ASAP, Bahamian citizenship is required to be an officer (same with the RBDF).

If you are here to commercially fish our waters, you aren't an expat. We have enough unemployed, unskilled labour here as it is, we don't need any more to be quite frank. There are industries and positions that require citizenship to be a part of in the US and Canada as well (many are ones dealing with national security), no reason we can't have the same here. Yeah, the foreign attorney's hired by the government has been a sticking point with the Bar for a while now, and I agree with them. We have a massive excess of Bahamian attorneys here, no need to hire abroad for attorneys.

No one in their right mind will loan the government any more funding, there is a less than 1% chance of ever getting it paid back at this point.


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