The Dinga Rosa I yesterday became the second Dominican poaching vessel to be sunk by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) this year.
RBDF marines drilled holes into the rusted keel of the vessel.
Then, filled it with water.
The Nassau Guardian observed as the vessel, which was confiscated by the RBDF last year, slowly disappear into the dark blue waters off the RBDF base at Coral Harbour.
It took roughly 45 minutes to go down.
“We did about four of these last year,” one marine noted.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard told The Guardian he hopes yesterday’s sinking of the vessel sends a message to those who dare to poach in Bahamian waters.
“We wanted to do a couple of things by sinking the vessel, like send a strong message that these vessels will never be able to enter into the value chain again in order to pillage any country’s waters,” Pintard said.
He said the government didn’t want to sell the vessels because it may lead law enforcement on “a wild goose chase”.
“If we sell it to Bahamians, who might not be doing anything illegal, we run the risk of the defense force pursuing a vessel that appears to be a poaching vessel because of the distinctive structure,” Pintard said.
“Of course, one of the other reasons that we do not seek to facilitate the sale is, quite frankly, a number of these vessels are quite old.”
Pintard said the government is making “progress” in addressing its issue with Dominican poachers.
In February 2019, Pintard vowed that the government would introduce “stiffer” penalties for poachers.
“Greater culpability or responsibility lies with the engineer on that vessel, the captain in particular,” he said.
“Which is why we have to recommend even more stringent penalties for the captain.
“And then, of course, the persons who are behind the criminal organization.”
Pintard said yesterday those penalties have not yet been introduced.
“We’re in the final stages and preparing the bill for Cabinet’s approval,” he said.
While noting that such penalties are “long overdue”, Pintard said he hopes that the amended Fisheries Act, which would allow the introduction of those penalties, will be passed in the House of Assembly before it breaks for the summer.
Talk of stiffer penalties on poachers began in October 2018 after three Dominican vessels with 124 crew members illegally entered Cuban waters while being pursued by RBDF for illegally fishing in Bahamian waters.
The incident led to a shootout that resulted in the vessels being seized by the defense force.
It was found that they were carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of seafood.