A conservationist has called for stiffer penalties for poachers after a magistrate fined two Americans caught fishing in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
Joaquin Rosario and Justin Tabor pleaded guilty to unlawfully fishing in the preserve this week and they each paid a $500 fine to avoid spending three months in prison.
The park’s warden and Royal Bahamas Defence Force marines caught the crew of the 37-foot yacht, Coco Love, fishing in the protected area on December 10, 2018.
Three black fin tunas and a barracuda were found on the yacht.
Eric Carey, executive director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), was disappointed at the light penalty.
He said in a statement, “Fishing in our national parks is a very serious offense, and as a country we need to send a strong message to discourage this. These minimal fines will not act as a deterrent to others, and may instead convey the message that we’re really not serious about dealing with poachers in the Exuma park. We obviously have a lot of work to do to educate even the magistrates about the seriousness of these vexing poaching incidents.”
Thanks to the generosity of three benefactors, the BNT recently obtained a new state-of-the art 28-foot patrol craft, which is outfitted with the last safety and enforcement technology.
Park Warden Brent Burrows said, “We attribute this successful apprehension to both our new patrol vessel and the local community. Having the right tools for the job is a key part of ensuring we can enforce park regulations. We would definitely like to thank the local community member that gave us the tip on the [suspects’] vessel. It is community relationships like this that we need to develop and strengthen to better help us protect our park.”
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, established in 1959, was the world’s first protected area of its kind. A complete no-take zone on both land and sea, the park is known for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment.
The park boundaries run from Wax Cay Cut in the north, to Conch Cut in the south, and extend outward approximately four nautical miles to either side of the cays. The park is managed by the Bahamas National Trust and is a strict no-take zone. The park staff maintain constant patrol operations to ensure both conservation and safety are maintained within the park boundaries. To report poaching, contact the park warden on VHF09, or call the park office at 601-7438.