Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) President Adrian Laroda said yesterday that while he sympathizes with those foreign fishermen living in The Bahamas who did not get their licenses renewed ahead of the crawfish season, the law of The Bahamas is clear that the industry is only meant for Bahamians.
Laroda’s comments follow an announcement from Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard earlier this week, that the government is taking a hard position enforcing the “for Bahamians only” policy in the industry.
Pintard said the government would be ending the special provisions which had for years allowed foreign fishermen living in The Bahamas on a work permit or spousal permit to participate in the harvesting of crawfish.
Laroda told The Nassau Guardian that Bahamian fishermen agree with the minister on the matter and see it as positive news that enforcement is going to be stronger.
“The laws are the laws,” he said.
“The problems that we may face here is closely related to the lack of enforcement.
“There was a disconnect. We know when it happened and we always made a fuss about it and protested it but we don’t know how it happened; that is, having a policy of allowing people on spousal permits to be engaged in a sector, reserved by law, strictly for Bahamians.
“A policy can’t trump a law and that has always been our position. So, while we may sympathize with those people who have to earn a living here – because we’ve heard those arguments and some of the arguments are very compelling – but our position is, okay fine if you are a foreign national engaged in the fisheries sector in The Bahamas, if you’ve been here for 10 to 15 years, by now, you should have applied for Bahamian citizenship.
“…So, it’s strictly a marriage of convenience and that’s what we see it as. If you have not applied for Bahamian citizenship or to regularize your status permanently, then it’s clear you have no intentions of being here, or the reason that you are here is not for the good of the country and not for the good of the family but purely to take advantage of a sector that is flourishing and that can afford you life in another place.”
During a press conference for the opening of crawfish season, 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.
Laroda added yesterday that Bahamian fishermen continue to grapple with poaching challenges on the high seas. He called on Bahamian law enforcement to pay close attention to those operators and poachers who seek to take advantage of the country’s resources.