Following two recent apprehensions of Dominican fishermen reportedly poaching in Bahamian waters, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said yesterday he is confident that talks with the Dominican government will result in the implementation of new measures to address the longstanding issue.
“I think discussions with the Dominican government have been going tremendously well,” said Henfield when asked about the matter outside Cabinet.
“A team from the Dominican Republic came, led by a minister, Minister Majorie Espinoza, who is responsible for external relations to a certain extent, and she brought with her members from the fisheries association in the Dominican Republic and made some commitments that the Dominican government would do more to help alleviate this problem of incursions into our waters to fish illegally.
“Some of these indications seem to suggest that they will put indicators on Dominican vessels, fishing vessels that leave; that these vessels will have to report to the Dominican Republic’s government before they leave and that they will continue to communicate to their people that fishing in The Bahamas is illegal and you could end up in prison for a very long time.
“In that meeting, also present [were] members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the commodore of the defense force Tellis Bethel, and several of his senior officers, as well as people from agriculture and fisheries and other government agencies concerned with this matter.
“The next step for us now is to have our technical people sit in a room and hammer out memorandums of understanding as to how we will proceed forward, when we address this issue.
“For them, it is a concern that their fishermen are in prison in Fox Hill for such an extended period of time.”
Authorities arrested seven alleged Dominican poachers on two go-fast boats in waters off North East Point, Inagua, at 11 a.m. on Monday.
According to reports, officers were on routine patrol when they spotted the vessels with the seven fishermen on board with several air compressors and containers of gasoline.
The men, boats and fishing apparatuses were handed over to police and immigration officials.
The incident came just days after officials arrested another seven Dominican fishermen off Inagua last week Tuesday.
Those fishermen have since been charged and sentenced.
Henfield said yesterday he is confident that new agreements with the Dominican government will bring about results.
“I’m confident that they are willing now to work and cooperate with the Bahamian government as we move forward,” he said.
Asked whether he believes these measures will be enough, considering poachers have previously attacked Bahamian fishermen on the seas, Henfield said, “Well we warned them about that as well. We indicated to them that Dominican fishermen are becoming more and more aggressive towards Bahamian law enforcement and even Bahamian fishermen in the past.
“We also commended our Royal Bahamas Defence Force for the level of discretion in not using a far more superior firepower to open up on a Dominican fishing vessel fleeing into Cuban territory.
“I’m confident that with our defense force working with the Dominican law enforcement, with the fisheries association in the Dominican Republic doing what they promised to do, which is working in the Dominican government as well as the Cuban government, we are going to make real inroads into this matter of illegal poaching in Bahamian waters.”