Agriculture and Marine Resources Shadow Minister Senator Clay Sweeting charged the government on Monday to ensure stronger protection and sustainability for Bahamian fisherman.
In a statement released yesterday, Sweeting underscored the plight of fishermen and their endless threats from foreign poachers.
Sweeting highlighted the opening of crawfish season on August 1st and the popularity the industry brings to many different islands including Spanish Wells, Eleuthera;, Abaco; Long Island; Exuma and Andros among others.
“Last season was possibly the most devastating fishing season ever experienced by the fishermen of this country,” Sweeting said.
“Hurricane Irma encompassed almost the whole Bahama bank and devastated the fishing grounds causing families to suffer financially and some Family Island economies recessed,” Sweeting said.
“Fishermen looked for alternate methods of providing for their families to survive.”
Crawfish Season runs from April 1 through July 31.
He claimed that the government offered little or no support to any of “these fishing communities, but instead initiated policies that seemed to foster a lack of encouragement for future growth of the industry”.
Senator Sweeting also stated in the release that poaching continues to remain a major concern for all fishermen.
“Foreign poachers are serious about poaching and therefore the government must be serious about protecting Bahamians against it,” he said.
“The government must take whatever enforcement action that is necessary to preserve fishing in Bahamian waters for Bahamians.”
Sweeting said that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) would like to set forth a number of proposals to the government to ensure the protection of Bahamian fishermen, including the following:
- Outline air patrols originating from South Andros over the southern banks.
- Routine marine patrols along the southernmost border of the Great Bahama Bank, Cay Lobos, Guinchos Cay and Cay Sal Bank.
- Immediate apprehension and prosecution under Bahamian law of illegal poachers.
- Government to ensure that the captured boats are not resold.
- Pre-season routine vessel checks by the Department of Marine Resources liaised with the Department of Immigration before the start of the season to ensure that all fishermen are Bahamian citizens.
Such recommendations, he said, are endorsed by the fishing community.
Sweeting further noted that all Bahamian fishermen and the fishing industry itself needs protection from foreign poachers, hurricanes, and the many other issues they face.