Today marks the opening of the 2019 crawfish season and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard reiterated yesterday that the government is taking a hard position enforcing the “for Bahamians only” policy in the industry, ending the special provisions which had for years allowed foreign fishers living in The Bahamas on a work permit or spousal permit to participate in the harvesting of crawfish.
Pintard said 600 compressor permits are issued each year to Bahamian fishers, however there are typically 40 applications submitted on a yearly basis by foreigners, which have to be approved by the minister.
A dive compressor permit is required for the use of the fishing gear which is used to harvest crawfish between the depths of 30 feet and 60 feet.
“Only Bahamian-owned fishing vessels are allowed in the sector. Under no circumstances are compressor permits to be issued to persons who are on work permits. To date, we have not issued any compressor permits to persons who are on spousal permits either,” Pintard said at a press conference announcing the opening of crawfish season at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources on Wednesday.
“The government is taking a policy decision to go back to the practice of protecting this sector for Bahamians. And while this minister is awaiting the written Cabinet approval with respect to it, we have no intention from this ministry’s standpoint to issue any compressor permit to any person unless otherwise directed by the Cabinet of The Bahamas.
“This is a position that successive governments had taken and for a variety of reasons had deviated from that position. It is not a sudden position. Twelve months ago it was indicated to all commercial vessel owners that this would be the position that we would take.”
More than 4.3 million pounds of crawfish valued at $68.1 million were exported from The Bahamas in 2018.
The government received royalties in the amount of $1.08 million for those exports, the lion’s share of all fisheries exports.
“As stakeholders prepare to take advantage of the season, the department admonishes all concerned to recall that the legal size limit for harvesting lobster is five and a half inches for crawfish tails. For whole lobsters including the jacket measurement from the base of the horns to the end of the jacket, it’s three and a quarter inches. All commercial fishing vessels being 20 feet and larger are required to be licensed for commercial fishing purposes by the Department of Marine Resources,” Pintard said.
“It is an offense for any vessel being 20 feet or larger, commercial or recreation to possess 250 pounds or more of marine resources without being first licensed.”
Pintard said an announcement is forthcoming on the bag limits of visitors to The Bahamas who harvest crawfish on foreign owned sports fishing vessels.
The crawfish season ends on March 31, 2020.