A new bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday seeks to prevent people who are not citizens of The Bahamas from engaging in commercial fishing.
The Fisheries Bill, 2020, which will repeal the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977, outlines the broad strokes for a new fishing management and conservation regime in The Bahamas.
“No person shall engage in fishing, or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel for fishing other than sportsfishing in the fisheries waters; and use or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel licensed under this act for fishing other than charter sportsfishing, unless that person is a citizen of The Bahamas,” the bill reads.
It added that no operator of a commercial fishing vessel shall allow a person who is not a citizen of The Bahamas to engage in fishing in Bahamian waters or use a vessel other than for charter sportsfishing.
Commercial fishing operators are also prohibited from employing non-Bahamians on board their vessel.
A person who contravenes this section is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $250,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or both.
Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson also tabled the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to ensure that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.
The amendment seeks to implement a new section in the Immigration Act.
This section will state: “The right to engage in gainful occupation or gainful employment granted by any permit issued under this Act does not include a right to engage in commercial fishing; and shall be in every case, subject to the Fisheries Act or any other law to the contrary.”
The Fisheries Bill also restricts foreign fishing vessels from engaging in any fishing or fishing-related activities in Bahamian waters unless authorized by the minister, and that such activities are conducted by a vessel owned or operated by an international organization of which The Bahamas is a member; for marine scientific research purposes; and for sporting purposes in accordance with any future regulations made.
The bill also requires fishermen to obtain a commercial fishing license to be able to engage in commercial fishing or fishing-related activities. It also mandates that no fishing vessel shall engage in fishing or fishing-related activities without a valid license.
Fishing or fishing-related activities include: commercial fishing; scuba diving for fishing purposes; flats fishing; diving with the aid of an air compressor for fishing; fishing on the high seas; marine scientific research in Bahamian fisheries waters; deploying, maintaining and retrieving any fish aggregating device; and any other fishing or fishing-related activity determined by the director.
The operator of a fishing vessel is also required to maintain a fishing log book, in English, relating to fishing or fishing activities.
Operators are also required to make reports, by email or other electronic means, “relating to the position of the vessel and the catch on board”.
Failure to adhere to this provision is an offense, and upon conviction, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
The bill will also establish a Fisheries Advisory Council to co-ordinate national policy on fisheries; advise the minister on the conservation and development and sustainable use of fisheries resources, among other duties.
It will also establish a National Fisheries Stakeholder Forum to, among other things, represent to the director of the Department of Marine Resources “the views of the fishing sector, fishing communities and other fisheries stakeholders in The Bahamas”.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard, who tabled the Fisheries Bill, said last night that the bill has been a long time coming.
“I’m excited about the signal that this is going to send to the sector,” he noted.