NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamian fishermen were yesterday said to be ‘100 percent’ in support of a Bahamian-only policy by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources which effectively ended the special provisions which had for years allowed foreign fishermen living in The Bahamas on a work permit or spousal permit to participate in the harvesting of crawfish.
Keith Carroll, vice-president of The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance, said: “All the fishermen in The Bahamas are behind the minister 100 percent. We congratulate him for having the courage to do what he did and we have his back.”
His comments come days after it was revealed that the government is being sued for denying 20 foreigners permits to harvest crawfish.
The applicants are mostly from the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
According to a lawsuit filed by their attorney Dion Smith, they have either spousal permits or are permanent residents and are employed on Bahamian-owned fishing vessels as divers.
The attorney claims that the decision to deprive them of dive compressor permits, which are essential for harvesting crawfish at certain depths, has affected their livelihood.
A dive compressor permit is required for the use of the fishing gear which is used to harvest crawfish between the depths of 30 feet and 60 feet.
Ahead of the 2019/2020 crawfish season, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard announced no one on a work permit, resident spouse permit, or permanent resident permit would be allowed to participate in the season.
Smith contends that this not only contravenes the Immigration Act, which empowers people with spousal permits and permanent residency to be gainfully employed, but also Article 26 of the Constitution.
Carroll said: “I know that the fishermen are very upset about that lawsuit issue. The fishermen support Minister Pintard. If the government listen to the fishermen 25 years ago we never would ahem had this problem. We advocated for Bahamians only.”
Carroll said the 2019/2020 crawfish seasons hasn’t been as good as expected.
“The Northern Bahamas took a big hit from Dorian. This crawfish season really isn’t as good as expected because we haven’t had any strong cold fronts coming in to really bring in the crawfish after the summer months. We used to have three or four strong cold front but we haven’t been getting any,” said Carroll.