NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Senator Lisa Bostwick-Dean yesterday expressed concern about a provision in the Fisheries Act, 2020, which prevents the foreign spouses of Bahamians from engaging in commercial fishing.
During debate on the legislation in the Senate, Bostwick-Dean said while she did not want her concern to become the news, it would have been “remiss to my womanhood not to speak my concern”.
As she began her contribution, the Free National Movement (FNM) senator said there were two things she would not change: her citizenship and her gender.
“In that regard, I would say that I do have a concern, which I hope we can address in the future,” Bostwick-Dean said
“My concern is not meant to at all diminish in any way…despite some little concerns for tweaks here and there.
“I don’t wish this to be bogged down into a matter of discrimination or relitigating of constitutional points, but what I would say to all who have said before that there are many instances in our laws where we preclude the spouses of Bahamians from participation of various sectors of society, that the fact that we do it, is no excuse to continue it.
“Furthermore, exclusion of persons from our armed forces and security is quite different than excluding persons from the ability to support their families.
“And that is what we are talking about here, in my view.”
In a letter to the editor, Ingraham said he was disappointed the FNM would implement a “pointedly discriminatory” provision in the bill, which would prevent the foreign spouses of Bahamians from engaging in commercial fishing in The Bahamas.
Yesterday, Bostwick-Dean said the point has been raised about attorneys.
She said spouses who are professional qualified attorneys can practice as registered associates, and if they wish to be called to the Bar, Bahamian citizenship must be taken on.
But the FNM senator underscored that those individuals are not precluded from practicing law by “reason of their citizenship”.
“And I would say, I am not talking at all of opening up participation of the Bahamian fishing industry for all foreigners,” she said.
“I am not supporting that. I do not support that. I support the reservation of fishing for Bahamians.
“However, I do think [where] there is a Bahamian married to another nationality, that person should be able to work in their trade profession to help to support their small Bahamian children, unless of course they were born outside of this country.”
However, she said a fisherman married to a Bahamian should be able to work in that profession to support their “little Bahamian children and there should be no restriction on that”.
As it relates to concerns about fishing methods of some nationalities, Bostwick-Dean said the laws of The Bahamas ensure the appropriate methods, and the captains onboard the respective vessels are responsible for the conduct of their crew.
“And so, I don’t see the need to say that a person married to a Bahamian cannot fish,” she added.
Speaking to fraudulent marriages and those of convenience, Bostwick-Dean said they should be frowned upon, condemned and pursued legally.
She said if there is a need to increase the penalties for such offenses, the government should do so.
Despite voicing concerns over the bill, which was passed yesterday afternoon, Bostwick-Dean said in instances where “these types of laws on our books, which make it difficult for foreign spouses to support their family, I would wish all governments of The Bahamas — this one, the past ones, I won’t say the next one because we’ll be back again — [address] these types of things going forward”.
She added: “Despite voicing these concerns, I do not want to take away from the significance and the momentous nature of this act. I don’t want this to become the news or the soundbite.
“The news here is really is this government has brought about the amendments and the modernization of our fishing laws for our people.
“I would have been remiss to my womanhood not to speak my concern…”
Bostwick-Dean also said the act may impact the ability of Bahamian fisherman, who wish to go into commercial fishing, to raise financing.
She asked the government to keep an eye on the matter and to make sure “in our enthusiasm, to ensure that we protect our marine resources, that we have managed to strike the right balance to ensure that our commercial fishing industry can grow and that Bahamians have access to financing in order for them to grow out their fishing fleets”.