Those stiffer penalties promised for poachers who have been “raping” the country’s waters are under review by the Office of the Attorney General, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said yesterday.
Pintard, who indicated in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that the government has decided not to sell vessels used to poach in The Bahamas, also confirmed that those boats will be sunk.
“I think we could appreciate the visual impact of saying, listen, ‘This thing that has participated in the rape of our marine resources and the damage to [the] livelihoods of our island communities where most of our fishers come from, we wish to destroy it,’” Pintard said.
As for the Fisheries Act, Pintard was reluctant to say what changes there would be or provide a date the changes would take effect.
“The Fisheries Act is presently being reviewed by the attorney general’s office,” Pintard said.
“Once we have gotten it back, we intend to take it to Cabinet for final approval.
“And then, of course, to introduce it to the House for broader discussion.
“…We are hopeful that we can get a response from the attorney general that would allow us to move expeditiously in that regard.
“So, I cannot give you a definitive date, but we are hopeful that this is a matter that we will have wrapped up prior to June.”
Talk of stiffer penalties on poachers began last October, after three Dominican vessels with 124 crew members illegally entered Cuban waters while being pursued by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) for illegally fishing in Bahamian waters.
The incident led to a shootout that resulted in the vessels being seized by the RBDF; it was found they were carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of seafood.
Pintard doubled down on the seriousness of poaching, saying that the damage is incalculable and erodes the tourism industry.
“…Greater culpability or responsibility lies with the engineer on that vessel, the captain in particular,” he said.
“Which is why we have recommended even more stringent penalties for the captain.
“And then, of course, the persons who are behind the criminal organization, the owners.”
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