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Foreign fishing depleting our resources

Dear Editor,

There has been much conversation and discourse about the fisheries regulations and the recent initiatives by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in the interdiction of Bahamian vessels carrying foreign fishermen. The laws of the Bahamas are deliberately misconstrued to allow a few fishermen to take advantage of the loopholes and bypass regulations.

The Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, Chapter 244–21(4), says: “Any person who being a non-Bahamian uses a Bahamian fishing vessel to fish for any fishery resource for commercial purposes within the exclusive fishery zone or is found employed on such a vessel in any capacity whatever, shall be guilty of an offense and liable on summary conviction, subject to the provisions of section 21, to a fine of $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both, unless such person has first been granted a permit in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Act, so to do.

Chapter 244–21(5) says: “Any person who being the owner, master or other person in charge of a Bahamian fishing vessel permits a non-Bahamian to use such vessel to fish for any fishery resource for commercial purposes within the exclusive fishery zone, or employs a non-Bahamian on such vessel, shall be guilty of an offense and liable on summary conviction, subject to the provisions of section 23, to a fine of $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both, unless the person so permitted to use the vessel or so employed has first been granted a permit in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Act, so to do.”

The above regulations state who may and may not work in the fisheries industry. Unlike other laws, these regulations makes an offender when caught, guilty until he proves himself innocent.

Chapter 244–20(3) says: “Where any fishing vessel engages in foreign fishing in the exclusive fishery zone for any fishery resource — (a) the owner and also the master or other person in charge of the vessel and every person who so uses it shall be guilty of an offense and liable on summary conviction, subject to the provisions of section 23, to a fine of $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of one year or to both.”

The fisheries regulations are clear and should not be misconstrued to satisfy the short sighted gains of a few people. The regulations give the minister the power to enter into an agreement with a foreign state to engage in foreign fishing, as far as we know there is no formal agreement in place however there is a practice by the Department of Marine Resources in conjunction with the Immigration Department to issue permits to foreign organizations to engage in fishing for scientific or research purposes.

In these instances Chapter 244–20 & 21 (unless the person so permitted to use the vessel or so employed has first been granted a permit in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Act, so to do) makes that provision. However, this does not and should not be taken to mean a holder of a spousal permit.

What is taking place in The Bahamas is symptomatic of the greed of a few to have a quick and easy fix regardless of the damage that the introduction of foreign fishing has caused on our resources. We are not myopic, we understand the need for new, easier and more productive methods of harvesting, however to do so without regard for the law and order and to the detriment of overfishing the resource is unacceptable.

Many conversations have been had with foreign fishers who brag about their ability to overfish and engage in Illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries without fear of arrest. Those who engage in the practice are able to land in The Bahamas today and be married today. Clearly these are marriages of convenience only for the purpose of engaging in the fishing industry with the accommodation of a few greedy operators.

The regulations are clearly misconstrued to accommodate illegal fishing, therefore the government must enforce the laws as they are written or change them.

To allow the practices employed by foreign fishers to continue is a dangerous precedent, as our fisheries will be wiped out in short order, because the use of breathing apparatuses to harvest product from fish aggregations and the practice of disposing animal waste on the seabed within the fish nurseries are also an extremely destructive practices introduced by foreign fishers.

The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance does not support the relaxing of any regulations regarding foreign fishers and implore the government to reinforce the policy of not granting immigration work permits to foreigners to engage in the fishers industry.

 

– Adrian B. LaRoda, BCFA president

 

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