Seventeen Dominican poachers were apprehended yesterday morning with a large quantity of fish, according to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF).
Officials say the RBDF vessel HMBS Cascarilla, assisted by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, seized a 76-foot ship in the Cochinos Banks for poaching in Bahamian waters.
In 2018, the RBDF successfully apprehended 190 Dominican poachers along with four Dominican fishing vessels and five small go-fast type boats with over 100,000 pounds of fisheries products.
Last week, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard revealed that the boats seized over the years are being allocated to fishermen from Abaco and Grand Bahama who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
Last year, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the government would explore strengthening legislation dealing with poachers, following a shootout on the high seas.
Dames indicated that he and Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield were in discussions on the incident and the steps the government must take in partnership with the Dominican government.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Pintard said yesterday that his ministry is now in the final stages of revising such legislation to present to Cabinet.
He added that he expects amendments to be debated in Parliament prior to the end of this fiscal year.
“The amendments will include stiffer penalties [a]nd these are significant increases in the penalties,” he said.
“Another thing is we’re changing, in the regulations, the catch limit. So, sports fisherman presently have a catch limit per vessel. We are going to dramatically decrease what amount of fish somebody who is cruising in The Bahamas or a sports fisherman is able to capture, and we intend to exclude conch from the marine resources they are able to harvest.”
Pintard also said the government is working on collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Embassy to prevent poachers from fleeing Bahamian waters to other jurisdictions.