Fishers Alliance hails “loophole” removing legislation

Fishers Alliance hails “loophole” removing legislation
(FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance has welcomed the new fisheries legislation which it said removes “loopholes” and allows greater management of the sector by the Department of Marine Resources.

In a statement, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) said: “The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance applauds the tabling in Parliament of the new Fisheries Act, replacing the Fisheries Resource Jurisdiction Act.

“To reach this point took a great effort and consultation and we are pleased that our recommendations are included in the new regulations, by removing the loopholes and [allowing] greater management of the sector by the Department of Marine Resources.”

The BCFA added: “We are also pleased that the introduction of the new Act comes on the threshold of World Fisheries Day, on 21st November 2020 with this year’s theme… ‘Partnership and innovation for resilient climate fisheries’. And [we] wish to thank all of our partners and look forward to the passage of the act.”

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

The legislation 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.

Last year, 20 foreign fishermen, mostly from the Dominican Republic and Honduras, sued the government for denying them permits to harvest crawfish.

They contended that this was in contravention of the Immigration Act, which empowers people with spousal permits and permanent residency to be gainfully employed.

Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson last week also tabled the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which 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.”