Categorized | National News

Amendment To Fisheries Laws Proposed

An  amendment to the Fisheries Act may be before Parliament by the end of the year, with stiffer penalties included for illegal poachers. 

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Michael Pintard revealed as much yesterday, when he spoke with reporters on the sideline of the opening of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations five-day workshop. 

Mr. Pintard said the draft was necessary to assist in bringing stiffer penalties to not only foreign fishermen breaking fisheries laws, but Bahamians as well.

“The Fisheries Advisory Committee has been meeting from early in the year, every week and the draft has been completed. It’s been forwarded to the Attorney General’s office; it’s been there roughly for about five weeks.

“We expect to get it back shortly [and] we’ll then carry it to Cabinet for final ratification and then on to the House of Assembly. So, we expect before the end of the year, barring any challenges, we should have it completed at Cabinet, not later.

“In January, we expect that we should have it before Parliament. If it happens before we would be very happy,” Mr. Pintard said. 

He  added that it is believed that the amendment is extremely important as it addresses the issue of the ongoing issue of poaching while increasing the penalties. 

“We [also] looked at some of the matters that will be discussed here today to make sure that we are compliant with every international agreement that we are a signatory to, to ensure that we are carrying out the best practices in terms of monitoring, control and surveillance of our borders.

“Making sure that not just foreigners are not just engaged in illegal and unregulated unreported harvesting of marine resources, but also that Bahamians are compliant as well.  So, we believe that we’ve made substantial progress and we expect that the act would demonstrate that,” Mr. Pintard said.

Although Mr. Pintard admits there are challenges faced when it comes to fighting off illegal poachers, he ensured that the government has air-marked millions of dollars to further surveillance of the borders.

“The Bahamas has challenges in terms of gaps that exists; in terms of our ability to carry out much of what we have agreed to. 

“So, for example, despite the fact that we have invested over $200 million in additional vessels for the Defence Fore, and despite the fact that we now have two satellite outposts in the Southern Bahamas, as you would’ve recalled, we’ve beefed up our surveillance in Inagua and we ae continuing to do so. 

“The same thing is true in Ragged Island.

‘The Cabinet has also approved $500,000  as an initial spend to ensure that we have drone technology.

“Despite having done all of that, we still have 100,000 square miles of ocean and so there is a need for more resources to be pumped into the surveillance and monitoring and control apparatus of the country.

“The Fisheries Act again is in part about capacity building. We don’t have sufficient marine patrol boats in the water. We are bringing two additional ones on stream at the end of the year but that is still inadequate.

“We are also looking to beef up our Fisheries Offices. We have a number of gaps we have to plug if we are going to be effective,” Mr. Pintard said. 

Defence Force Marines recently arrested 124 Dominican fishermen aboard three motherships after they were caught poaching in Bahamian waters. The men were consequently fined roughly $8 million.

The five-day workshop with the Food and Agriculture Organization aimed at formulating a national strategy and action plan for compliance with the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is currently taking place at the Marriot  Courtyard  Hotel. 


Written by Jones Bahamas

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