Categorized | Featured, National News

Stiffer Fishing Penalties

Michael Pintard

Stiffer penalties for those found breaking the fisheries law and according to Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard, that may come as soon as the end of the year. 

Mr. Pintard, during the declaration of the opening of the crawfish season, said that the plan is to bring a proposed schedule of penalties to the House of Assembly when it resumes in October. 

“In October, we are going to lay on the table of the House [of Assembly], the proposed schedule of penalties and I say proposed only because other than the Fisheries Advisories Group, which has done a great deal of consultation, other than them, there are other Bahamians who have a notion of what penalties should be and what the new Fisheries Act should look like,” Mr. Pintard said.    

“So we want to give the public an opportunity to review it. But that will be laid on the table of the House in October and it will be passed by the end of this coming year.”

Crawfish season opens today and ends March 31, 2020. 

According to the Department of Marine Resources statistics, last season saw a lucrative period for local fisherman as numbers showed that 4.3 million pounds of the popular shellfish were caught pulling in $67.9 million. 

As usual, the minister with responsibility said that there are certain things to keep in mind during the harvesting period. 

“The Department [of Fisheries] admonishes all concerned to recall that the legal size limit for harvested crawfish is, crawfish tails – 5 1/2 inches, whole crawfish (carapace) 3 ¼ inches,” Mr. Pintard said. 

“All commercial fishing vessels 20 feet and larger are required to be licensed for commercial fishing purposes by the Department of Marine Resources. It is an offence for any vessel being 20 feet or larger, commercial or recreational to possess 250 pounds or more of marine resources without first being licensed.”

Further, he advised that if there is a need to use a dive compressor, a permit is also required and the device can only be used in depths of 30 feet to 60 feet.

Mr. Pintard further advised that occupants of foreign-owned vessels with license for sports-fishing purposes must also adhere to stipulations on bag limits, this he said is inclusive of what relates to spiny lobster and the Queen Conch and this is specified in their permits. 

Mr. Pintard also admonished that the laws with regard to fisheries will be enforced.

“Law enforcement has to be vigilant. We will have additional officers available as well as we will educate all other law enforcement agencies those that certainly can be deputized as fisheries officers all of them would be made aware of the regulations,” Mr. Pintard said. 

“We have a very good working relationship with U.S. authorities and they are prepared to educate their citizens with respect to the measures that we are going to be taking.

“As we indicated to commercial vessel owners one year ago, we had this discussion and it is very important to remind the public that 12 months later, we did not intend to issue compressor permits to persons from other countries who seek to dive associated with commercial fishing vessels.

“Only Bahamian-owned fishing vessels are allowed in the sector. Under no circumstances would compressor permits be issued to persons who are on work permits.”

The minister sought to clarify how permits will be issued and to whom.

“To date, we have not issued any compressor permits to persons who are on spousal permits either. The government is taking a policy decision to go back to the practice of protecting this sector for Bahamians,” Mr. Pintard said. 

“And while this minister is awaiting a written Cabinet conclusion with respect to it, we have no intentions from this ministry’s standpoint to issue any compressor permit to non-Bahamians unless otherwise directed by the Cabinet of The Bahamas.

“In the case of spousal permits, we have not issued compressor permits but this does not prevent those persons from working in any sector of our economy that is not in law, reserved for Bahamians.”

Mr. Pintard said this was not a new position, but a position that successive governments have taken and for varied reasons deviated.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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