Fisheries Bill passes in Parliament unanimously

Fisheries Bill passes in Parliament unanimously
(FILE PHOTO)

Bills will prevent non-Bahamian citizens from commercial fishing and regulate fisheries industry

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Members of Parliament yesterday passed the Fisheries Bill and an amendment to the Immigration Act that would prevent non-Bahamian citizens from commercial fishing in Bahamian waters.

The compendium of bills was passed unanimously shortly before 10.30pm.

The Fisheries Bill, 2020, would repeal the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977.

Meanwhile, the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeks to ensure that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.

“Our nation sits within 100,000 square miles of ocean and possesses additional inland waterways rich with marine life and assets that hold incredible opportunities for this generation and our children and grandchildren yet unborn,” said Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard, who led the debate on the bill.

“This legislation is a part of the combination to unlock the doors to this enormous storehouse of riches. The combination of effective bold legislation, policy programmes and projects.”

Pintard noted that the development of the fisheries sector has the greatest potential for the development of Family Island economies.

He said the development of the Blue Economy inclusive of the fisheries sector is a value proposition that is worth billions if managed properly.

Fisheries contribute just below one percent to the GDP of The Bahamas and employs nearly 15,000 persons on a full-time basis.
The total production of fisheries products over the past five years has averaged just around six million lbs annually, averaging some $54.3 million.
Pintard said the new legislation will make necessary changes to the industry, including defining and differentiating the powers of the minister and those of the director and establishing a Fisheries Advisory Council and a National Fisheries Stakeholders Forum.

He said new requirements will be implemented, including a fisheries management plan for each fishery asset, licensing of commercial, and foreign sport fishing fishers, and their vessels; and the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) aboard commercial fishing vessels, along with provisions for the proper management and development of the aquaculture sector using best practices.

Additionally, the new regulations will prohibit foreign involvement within the commercial fishing sector and enact the UN/FAO’s Port State Measures Act into local law.

The bill will now move to the Senate for debate and passing.