0

Fisheries poaching 'big money racket'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMIAN fishermen are urging the government to "get serious" and enact "stiffer penalties" against poachers, with one describing the problem as a "big racket".

Keith Carroll, vice-president of the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA), told Tribune Business that government must take serious action to curb poaching, warning: "These guys are raping our country."

His comments come after new agriculture and marine resources minister, Michael Pintard, also called for stricter penalties for poachers. In an interview with this newspaper, Mr Pintard suggested that harsher fines, imprisonment and seizing poachers' vessels could be implemented.

He said the final decision would be made at Cabinet level, not unilaterally by his ministry. Two weeks ago, 46 persons on board a 70-foot Dominican fishing vessel were apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for poaching, and found in possession of a large quantity of illegal fisheries products.

"Successive governments have talked about this. We have been having this problem for years in this country. It doesn't seem as if any government is seriously trying to address this problem," said Mr Carroll.

"They bought new vessels for the Defence Force, and they are doing a good job apprehending these poachers, but the fines these guys are getting is a joke. It's a slap on the wist, really. We need to hit these guys hard so that if any captain leaves Santo Domingo he's going to be scared to come here. I'm not just talking about heavy fines but hard labour."

Mr Carroll added: "They fine these guys a few thousand dollars and they make that back in a day with profit. The guys the Defence Force recently caught had about $1m worth of seafood on their boat and there were five more boats that they didn't capture. These guys are raping our country, and soon we will have no fish. Maybe that's when we will see some action."

Mr Pintard suggested that diplomacy could also be a strategy used to combat the poaching problem, via discussions with the governments of the illegal fishermen. Former agriculture and marine resources minister under the Christie administration, V Alfred Gray, had previously led discussions with the Dominican Republic government over the issue.

Mr Carroll, though, suggested that such efforts would not bring positive results. "No government is going to facilitate locking up their people. The Dominican government knows that they have no conch, crawfish or grouper in their waters, but their boats are coming in every week loaded with fish, conch and lobster and they know it's from The Bahamas," he said.

"Every day 10-12 Dominican boats are fishing in The Bahamas. This is a big money racket. Our fisheries is being served in their hotels."

Comments

Porcupine 6 years ago

All true, but what will we do?

sheeprunner12 6 years ago

The Americans who own the hotels in the DR may have some answers

BahamasForBahamians 6 years ago

Blow them up or let them poach. Its either one.

Sign in to comment