Amendments to the Fisheries Act, which would introduce “draconian” measures to address the issue of commercial fishing by non-Bahamians in the country’s waters, are before the Cabinet, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said yesterday.
“In an effort to maintain the commercial fishing industry as the exclusive domain of Bahamians, the government of The Bahamas has moved to amend the current Fisheries Act of 1977, which would prohibit non-Bahamians from working onboard Bahamian registered commercial fishing vessels in any capacity,” he said during a press conference.
“In addition to the amendment of the Fisheries Act, it has also caused the harmonization of the Bahamian Immigration Act, which would ensure the non-issuance of work permits by the department to any foreign individual or person to work as crew onboard a Bahamian registered commercial fishing vessel.
“The proposed amendments are presently with Cabinet.”
Pintard said his ministry is also working with the ministries of labor and immigration to look into claims that migrants are marrying Bahamians to be able to fish in the country. He said a primary goal is to identify vessel owners and captains so that they can be held accountable as well.
“All matters are being investigated at this moment, including trying to find the beneficial owners of the vessels that we continue to interdict,” he said.
“It’s one thing for us to arrest, incarcerate, fine the crew members. But we believe that the biggest culprit in this are the captains, some of whom have been repeat offenders and you will see with the amendment to the Fisheries Act that there will be some fairly draconian measures taken to deter them in future.
“But we also believe that the owners, the persons who own these vessels, those are the folks we’re going after. And through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other channels, we’re working with neighboring countries in order to investigate that.”