Official Position & Recommendations to the proposed Bahamas Fisheries Legislation
Dear Honorable Minister Gray and Director Braynen:
Firstly, thank you for affording our Members from the Northern Bahamas to the very Southern Bahamas, an opportunity to present our views.
Below, please kindly find the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFFIA) points for your consideration for the proposed “ BAHAMAS’ FISHERIES RESOURCES (JURISDICTION AND CONSERVATION) (FLATS FISHING) REGULATIONS, 2015”:
Conservation: – Major nursery systems of Mangroves and Flats throughout The Bahamas need to be protected. Examples being the Northside of Grand Bahama, West Coast of Andros, the Joulters Cays, Bights of Acklins and Crooked Island, Westside of Abaco, Eleuthera, Long Island and Cat Island etc. This is imperative that these Mangrove habitats and flats are protected, especially Red Mangroves, as it is the primary nursery system where the juvenile fish and crustaceans grow and find protection from the predatory fish. This will increase the fish population from depletion or extinction for the continued enjoyment of Anglers and generations to come. No commercial mining or drilling of any kind should be allowed in the flats. These areas should be passed by Law as Marine Reserves. A Management Plan needs to be implemented which focuses on the opening of many blocked creeks around the Bahamas, repairs and building of boat ramps, Game Wardens Program, Wading Warden Program (responsible for manning the zoned Unguided Anglers (UGA) Flats ensuring proper handling and care of the bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and stingray, no netting or littering), funding local children conservation educational programs and field trips and the proper handling and care of the “Catch & Release” species by Guides and Anglers. It is recommended that all mangrove, flats and reef research should be done through The College of the Bahamas in consultation and in conjunction with BFFIA. BFFIA suggests that 40% of the Fishing License Proceeds go to conservation and that a Board Member of BFFIA be appointed as Board Representative on the Government Conservation Fund Committee.
Fishing Licenses: – Fishing permits should be sold electronically and purchased via credit card or through the Department of Marine Resources, the Family Island Administrator’s Offices, Fly Shops or Lodges. Fly Shops and Lodges should be able to purchase Daily and Weekly Licenses in Bulk at a discounted rate and be able to sell to the Anglers, like we do now with Batelco Phone Cards, and send in the filled in applications to the Department of Marine Resources for their records. Persons who have a vacation home in The Bahamas should be able to purchase a year fishing license for the owners of the house. This is not for use by guests visiting their homes. BFFIA suggests that there be two (2) Categories of Fishing Licenses, Guided and Unguided. This will also assist with more accurate surveys and statistics as to the percentages of Guided and Unguided Anglers frequenting our Country’s Flats and not rely on secondhand surveys or information from Non-Bahamian Entities’ Reports. The proposed fees are as follows:
W/Guide $10 W/O Guide $20 Day
W/Guide $50 W/O Guide $100 Week
W/Guide $100 W/O Guide $200 Month
W/Guide $250 W/O Guide $500 Year
Foreign Vessels or Floating Lodges: – A Foreign Registered Vessel (needs to be defined) fishing in Bahamian waters with single or multiple flatsboats be required to purchase a sportfishing permit also for the flatsboats and a fishing license for every Angler on board. They would also be required to hire a Certified Bahamian Guide at a ratio of one to two, that is one guide to every two Anglers.
Certified Fishing Guide be employed at a ratio of one(1) to two(2), namely one guide to every two Anglers fishing in the flats.
Number 5 (2) (c): – In the Draft Legislation where is it talks about Certification of Guide and operators. It need to state “successfully completed the fly-fishing Certification program offered by BFFIA for a minimal fee.
Certification of Guides: – The legitimizing of the Fishing Guide Profession for Bahamian Citizens only. The reason being that Immigration status like permanent resident with the right to work and others have and are still being abused, especially in the commercial fishing sector. Currently foreigners are only marrying locals to have access to our Natural Resources while they continue to hold on their primary residence in their country with no allegiance to the Bahamas. General Guide License and Master Guide license should be obtained from The Department of Marine Resources, following the certification of the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association. Current professional Guides, with five years or more experience should be grandfathered in, with new Guides undertaking the certification program, which would include a minimum of a year apprenticeship on the flats with a professional Guide. They would also be required to have Liability Insurance.
Certification of Lodge Operators:– The certification of lodges should be done by the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association and the Ministry of Tourism Hotel licensing unit. BFFIA recommends that Foreign Investment Board should consult with BFFIA, who will discuss with members and relevant stakeholders, to evaluate the current lodge density in the proposed area to avoid over fishing and irreparable damages to the already fragile local fishery. A major concern is that Bahamians who are presently in the industry, have been placed at a very unfair disadvantage and competition, due to not having access to capital compounded with high interest rates from our local banks whereas foreign persons do not encounter these issues. The present lodges here in The Bahamas should be grandfathered in, but any Lodge going forward should be majority Bahamian owned and the Industry reserved for Bahamians.
Duty Free Exemption Fishing Lodge Operators: – The BFFIA recommends that Certified Guides should also be able to apply to the Department of Marine Resources/Minister of Finance for customs duty exemption for Boats, Trailers, Engines, Trucks, Jeeps or SUVs, Kayaks, Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUP), fly fishing gears and related supplies, so that it would improve the capability of Guides to deliver the highest level of service and safety to the Anglers.
Outfitters’ License: – Recommends that Bahamian Fly Fishing Lodges and Certified Fly fishing/flats fishing Guides who meet all the Government requirements and licensing be issued an Outfitters’ License. This would allow lodges and Certified Guides to have fly shops with the basic gear that Anglers needs on their fishing trips. Often Anglers come on a trip and find in many cases they don’t have the correct gear. Example sometime they forget their foul weather jacket, or wading boots, or the wrong fly line etc.
Prohibited Commercial Fishing in the Flats: – No commercial fishing or netting of Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit, Snook or Stingray be allowed in the flats.
Protection: – BFFIA recommends the protection of Tarpon, Permit, Snook and Sting-Ray with further strengthening of the present protection of Bonefish in the current Act. Also the need for Catch and Release practices and protection of our National Fish, the Blue Marlin (Could you imagine a Bahamian visiting the USA decides to hunt and kill the Bald-Headed Eagle. Imagine a Sovereign country where the national fish is not protected for catch and release).
DISTRIBUTION OF FISHING LICENSES: – BFFIA recommends that the fishing license fee should be distributed as follows:
40% Conservation Fund
15% Bahamas Development Bank in a special fund to help Bahamians presently and are interested in getting in to the fly fishing business. Presently a minimum of 70 percent of Bahamians are not able to make their bank payments.
National Game & Wading Wardens: – BFFIA recommends establishing a National Warden Program throughout the Country to assist in the enforcement as it relates to fishing without the proper Government Licenses, handling and care of the protected flats species, and the illegal Netting of Bonefish namely in Long Island, Andros, Acklins along with other illegal activities on the flats. A portion of the funds from the fishing license can be used to train and pay for these wardens and ensure that they are properly equipped and have access to speed boats and flatsboats for patrol etc.
Unguided Anglers (UGA): – To zone areas for Anglers with a Fishing License to fish without the assistance of a Certified Guide. (At their own risk and accepting full liability). These zoned areas must be assigned with consultation with the Local Guides and Lodges on each island because of their unique geography and usage placed on a rotation schedule to prevent overfishing .e.g. if an island has 3 zoned Unguided Anglers’ (UGA) flats one in rotation should be closed every 6 or 9 months. Islands like Long Island, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Exuma, Acklins and Crooked Island need special protection because of their the geography, the roads are constructed on the side of the islands directly on the flats, which exposes and makes the fishery very vulnerable for abuse to over fishing. UGA, because of the easy access, should not be allowed to fish these islands especially due to the limited flats, increased wading traffic and the already applied pressure on the fishery to avoid the already depletion of the fish population. Anglers should be permitted to fish on feet (wading) provided they have paid their license fees and are staying either in a local fishing lodge, hotel, Bed & Breakfast, renting a Bahamian residence or apartment or visiting friends or family. In the genuine cases where such facilities have flats that are located directly behind or across the road from them, who cater to Anglers who like to fish by themselves, should be permitted, and not restricted, as long as they are staying at that certified lodge or facility. Persons who have a legitimate vacation home in the Bahamas should be eligible to purchase a long term fishing permit which allows them to fish the flats. Under no circumstance, should that allow them to run an illegal business in The Bahamas from their residence. This is no different from a Mothership’s (Floating Lodge) operation on the water, where they bring in their flats boats and foreign Guides.
Again we, the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association Board, would like to thank you for allowing us to voice the collective views of our members and stakeholders.
Prescott Smith- President/Director
Denward Rankine- Vice President/Director
Valentino Munroe- Asst. Treasurer/Director
Shawn Leadon- Director
Kendall Williamson- Director
Nathaniel Gilbert- Director
Paul Pinder- Director
Omeko Glinton- Director
James Smith- Director
Colin Cartwright- Director
Philip Wiiliamson- Treasurer
Geneva M Wilson
Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association
If you enjoyed this article please consider sharing it!