The Bahamian fishing community said it is at a loss as to why the government has invested in farming and harvesting fish for consumption.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resource Michael Pintard announced the launch of Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute’s (BAMSI) venture into Aquaculture where some 3000 Andros-grown tilapia will emerge in the country’s retail market by the beginning of 2019 recently.
According to the minister, this aquaculture project is BAMSI’s way of addressing the deficit in the popular “Nassau Grouper” in restaurants, wholesalers and retail outlets which have seen an increase in demand for the seafood.
During a telephone interview with Eyewitness News last Friday, President of The Bahamas Commercial Fisheries Alliance, Adrian La-Roda not only expressed that he felt the project was not necessary, he also offered another approach to the farming fish for consumption.
“I don’t know why the government of The Bahamas is expending its energies to try and re-invent the wheel. It’s been proven that Bahamians do not care for farm-raised fish. What we should concentrate our efforts on is a different type of fish,” La-Roda said.
La-Roda suggested another innovative way the government could address fish farming endeavours as well as using a healthier species by “using some of our natural resources to farm fish; I believe it can be done cost-effectively.
“Let’s use Arawak Cay for example; part of the water waste between Arawak Cay and Nassau can be corralled to be able to farm fish – it has all the ingredients for a proper fish farm inclusive of proper tidal flow.
“… you can have corralled from larvae to mature fish that can be done in that half mile area.”
According to La-Roda, other popular healthier seafood that can be used to farm instead of the Nile Tilapia include lobster, snappers, turbot fish and even conch, although it would require a bit more prepping – it can be done.
BAMSI head of Marine division Vallierre Deleveaux (PhD) selected the all-male Nile Tilapia as the species of choice for farming.
Investing in an Aquaponics facility has proven to not be cheap and although the government has not disclosed the exact amount of money used to facilitate this Aquaculture project, La-Roda explained to Eyewitness News that the costs of fish farming is by no means inexpensive.
“I can only give you a guestimate… a small farm from set up to producing can you run you into $3 million, which most of that will go into science and processing.
“Water temperature has to be controlled; disease agents have to be controlled; feeding has to be very scientific – it’s all a scientific process,” he said.
Vasile Mavros, Hightide Seafood Proprietor echoed BCFA chief’s sentiments. Mavros told Eyewitness News on Friday as well, that he personally thinks it’s a pointless idea the government has pursued.
“Personally, as it comes to the closed season of grouper, that’s around the time that grouper is in high demand, around December and you know that’s boiled fish season.
“You have Boxing Day and New Year’s Day boiled fish that everyone looks forward – that good boiled fish, and to try and make a substitute for that would seem pointless to me.”
Mavros expressed that in his experience as a seafood operator and fisherman, many Bahamians actually complain when they get tilapia instead of grouper.
“I mean come on, who’s going to boil the head of Tilapia or even boil Tilapia on the whole?” he said.
“Personally, that fish farm can’t contribute to anything but expenses, tilapia is a species of fish that has been used as a grouper substitute for years and it never worked, people just go and find Nassau grouper by any means necessary at that time of year.”
Mavros further cited the closure of the season was due to “too much non-Bahamian fishermen not just the Dominicans and Americans.”
Mavros said, “not even three quarters of our population are fishermen, yet we have to have a closed season for our fish…How can three quarters of our population wipe out our natural resources?”