Pintard: Fisheries Bill being “hijacked” by lawsuit

Pintard: Fisheries Bill being “hijacked” by lawsuit
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard speaks with reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A lawsuit against the government, brought by a group of Bahamian women and their foreign spouses, is an unfortunate attempt to “hijack” the Fisheries Bill, 2020, said Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard yesterday.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Pintard noted that the comprehensive legislation seeks to address the governance and management of the industry and should not be eclipsed by one component.

“It is unfortunate that the many benefits of the Fisheries Bill, that some have allowed themselves to be constrained to discuss only one dimension of the bill,” he said.

“The bill addresses governance making sure stakeholders participate in how their sector runs and addresses the issue of managing the Blue Economy in general.

“…I don’t want it to be lost in this discussion that parliamentarians are in place to protect the patrimony of The Bahamas for future generations of Bahamians and that is essentially what this bill is about.”

The bill repeals the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977, and prevents individuals who are not citizens of The Bahamas from engaging in commercial fishing.

An amendment to the Immigration Act further ensures that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.

Pintard insisted that the matter must be centered around an immigration discussion and not the carving out of the industry to Bahamians.

“Anyone who wishes to become a Bahamian, I will work with them,” he said.

“I’ll fight on their behalf for us to speed up the process and make sure they have citizenship.

“…Commercial fishing should be reserved for Bahamians and we should enshrine it in the constitution.”

Several prominent politicians, including former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and former Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, have called the move “discriminatory” against Bahamian women.

However, Pintard said if discrimination is the ultimate issue, then an immigration debate should be had.

“I will gladly join that because I do believe that we need to move faster to ensure that those persons who qualify for permanent residence or citizenship, that that happens,” he added.

“Let’s have that debate. But to hijack the Fisheries Bill on the basis of one component, that’s unfortunate.”