Poaching of Bahamian fisheries by neighboring countries, particularly the Dominican Republic, was at the forefront of discussions during the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) regional conference for Latin American and the Caribbean meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica last week.
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Renward Wells told parliamentarians during the mid-year budget debate last evening that when he attended the FOA meeting last week, he kept the issue, which has plagued this nation for decades, at the top of the agenda.
“Last week I attended the regional meeting for the FAO in Jamaica and illegal and unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) was high on the agenda. And Mr. Deputy I saw to it that it was high on the agenda by bringing it up over and over in meetings,” Well said.
At that meeting, he said he reiterated, as he did in Parliament yesterday, that The Bahamas must be much more aggressive in holding on to its resources for Bahamian fishermen.
He said the only way this can be accomplished is “by aggressively addressing the poaching issue, which is typically done by a few of our neighbors.”
“… The incursions of the foreign element for IUUF affects our culture, by depleting our fishery resource stock exponentially in shallow waters, where Bahamians typically fish.”
Nothing, he said, is more fundamental to Bahamian culture than conch. He said his ministry has been able to trace the current deficiency seen in local conch stocks in shallow waters, is directly related to the “raping of our oceans of everything that creeps or crawls or swims in the sea, by certain other nationals.”
“Mr. Deputy, this we cannot continue to tolerate. This must come to an end.”
As such, Well said, his ministry is now seeking to require local fishing vessels to be equipped with radars, which will allow the Bahamian government to track Bahamian boats.
“[We will be able to tell] where these boats are and use their radar also as a way to cover Bahamian territorial waters, so that we can know who is in our waters to be able to address this IUUF problem that we currently have,” he said.
“Mr. Deputy, further to assisting farmers and fishermen, the ministry has purchased a patrol vessel for the Abaco area. We were also looking to purchase another vessel but, due to budgetary constraints, that has been put on hold. The ministry has also purchase a D8, which was in our budget and we’re seeking to use that to help the farmers both here is Nassau and [the Family Islands], to clear land so that they can get on the agricultural rotation crop schedule, so that they can begin to produce.”