NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard yesterday pushed back against suggestions the country’s spiny lobster industry has been totally devastated, telling Eyewitness News the country is still able to satisfy the demand for spiny lobster.
Pintard revealed the government intends to donate small dinghies confiscated from Dominican poachers to impacted fishermen.
“There are a number of persons coming forward who are willing to donate small craft that we can present to fishers, to accompany the craft, the small dinghies, that we confiscated from Dominicans and intend to donate to a number of our fishermen,” he said.
Pintard stated 4.5 million to 4.9 million pounds of spiny lobster or crawfish is landed annually in The Bahamas, and most of it is exported.
He said Grand Bahama and Abaco provide “at best” 50 per cent of the lobster harvested or landed, with the bulk coming out of Spanish Wells, Long Island and New Providence.
“Due to the challenges on Abaco, a number of fishers and farmers have still not been accessed,” Pintard said.
“A number of them have been evacuated etc. We believe that somewhere in the vanity of 30 per cent of those persons have been impacted have been assessed.”
Pintard said: “The preliminary view from both face to face interviews, questionnaires that have been answered, telephones interviews etc pegs the damage to the agriculture sector in excess of $20 million and the marine resources sector in excess of $20 million.”
A recent Forbes Magazine article reported The Bahamas’ spiny lobster industry has been “set back years” due to Hurricane Dorian, citing a damage and needs assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to that report, nearly 80 percent of the fisheries sector and its supporting infrastructure in Grand Bahama and Abaco, ranged from being significantly damaged to completely destroyed.
Yesterday, Pintard said the government has not seen the FAO’s final report.
“It is a bit surprising to hear comments being reported internationally particularly since the protocol ordinarily is that if you are doing a joint assessment with any agency, that you would have an in camera discussion prior to the release,” he said.
“I am not certain at this point but I am doubtful that FAO would have made comments internationally, independent of a conversation with those of us who pretty much commissioned the assessment.”
Pintard underscored the government is extremely appreciative of the assistance rendered by the FAO, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Pintard said: “We are a bit concerned when you hear that the lobster stock has been utterly devastated. It undermines though I believe unintentionally the argument of sustainable management and harvesting, even though those that who authored the article are seeking to explain what they believe to understand the impact of Dorian to the stock.
“It still sends in our estimation the wrong message because it is not supported by the fact.”
“While we have been adversely impacted and the exact extent remains to be determined, we are still in a position to satisfy the demand for spiny lobster that exists. All of the discussion going on are fairly preliminary and we are waiting to get all of the reports and assessments in.
“There is a large segment of the spiny lobster industry that is untouched by Dorian,” Pintard added.