NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) yesterday reiterated its support for legislation barring foreign nationals from working on Bahamian-owned boats, telling Eyewitness News that opposition to the proposed law “was to be expected”.
Adrian LaRoda, BCFA president, told Eyewitness News, “Quite honestly the opposition to it was something to be expected because it is going to have a direct impact on the businesses of some persons. They need to make their case. As it stands now, we support the legislation. We will just have to see how it goes. We have made significant contribution to that legislation.”
The Coalition For Responsible Fishing (CFRF), which represents major fisheries wholesalers, processors and exporters, has warned that proposed changes to fisheries and immigration laws preventing foreigners working on locally-owned boats will result in increased unemployment and the failure of local fisheries businesses.
The legislation at the center of the rift is the Fisheries Bill, 2020, which would repeal the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977.
The legislation, which has been tabled in Parliament, seeks to prevent individuals who are not citizens of The Bahamas from engaging in commercial fishing.
“No person shall engage in fishing, or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel for fishing other than sportsfishing in the fisheries waters; and use or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel licensed under this act for fishing other than charter sportsfishing, unless that person is a citizen of The Bahamas,” the bill states.
The legislation also states that no operator of a commercial fishing vessel shall allow a person who is not a citizen of The Bahamas to engage in fishing in Bahamian waters or use a vessel other than for charter sportsfishing.
Commercial fishing operators are also prohibited from employing non-Bahamians onboard their vessels.
A person who contravenes this section is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $250,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or both.
An Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, also seeks to ensure that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.
The amended section states: “The right to engage in gainful occupation or gainful employment granted by any permit issued under this act does not include a right to engage in commercial fishing; and shall be in every case, subject to the Fisheries Act or any other law to the contrary.”
LaRoda said, “We have made a significant contribution to that legislation. This is not the first time we have heard from foreign nationals in The Bahamas who work in the fisheries sector. What is a concern to me is the cry is oftentimes from the same people. My position today is the same today as it was 15 years ago.
“If you have been in The Bahamas for 15 years raising a family and you know what the regulations are, why haven’t you tried to get yourself regularized and apply for citizenship…? The fact that you may not have suggests that you do not consider this your home. So, why should we make accommodations for you? For those of us who have to stay and live here, shouldn’t we protect our interests? There have been a few who have applied and were granted citizenship…but there is a good number who have been here as long as 30 years and have never bothered to regularize themselves.”