NEWS FROM THE BAHAMAS
This week at the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) Show in Orlando, Florida, proposed new fishing regulations were announced from the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources. The press statement covering the proposed legislation for the flats fishing industry was delivered Wednesday by Rena S. Glinton, Permanent Secretary.
While this is still proposed — not final — legislation, it was well received by the industry and we’re cautiously optimistic.
Here’s the press statement verbatim:
The Flats/fly fishing sector is an important part of The Bahamas’ tourism product. Currently, this sector is unregulated, unlicensed and attracts no fees. There are no mandatory conservation methods, save and except for the regulations for catching bonefish by net , offering the species for sale, etc., unlike in other jurisdictions where regulations are established. Florida, for example, has a well-regulated fly fishing industry with established regulations and fees. This haphazard and ad hoc nature of the industry in The Bahamas, is counter-productive to the sustainability of the fly fishing industry, which, if allowed to continue, is detrimental to The Bahamas in general, and the visitors in particular, who enjoy their fly fishing experiences here.
The Bahamas’ Government intends create a specific regime for the regulation of fishing in the flats in order to protect and preserve the flats and flats fishing stocks and to bring order and transparency to the fly fishing industry. V d’Shan Maycock, in an Assessment Report of this sector, advises that “flats fishing takes place during the year, with a voluntary closed season from August to October.” Persons who engage in flats fishing are mostly visitors to the country who pursue their fishing passion in locations throughout our country, namely in the areas around the islands of the Abacos, Acklins, Andros, Bimini, Crooked Island and Grand Bahama. These anglers use a variety of accommodations namely fishing lodges, small hotels and rental homes, and may or may not engage the services of local fishing guides for all, or parts of their fishing experience.
Maycock’s report also advises that almost 37,000 persons travel to The Bahamas for flats fishing and the economic impact is measured by dollar expenditure of over $500 million and in jobs (directly and indirectly) of 18,000.
Taking the above impact into account, it has become necessary to regulate and develop this important sector of the leisure fishing industry. The initial draft of the regulations has been modified following two town-hall meetings. Full and frank discussion took place. We also solicited the views and comments of interested persons and private sector stakeholders who were unable to attend the meetings via email messages which were scrutinized and acknowledged.
1) Personal Angler License
Presently, persons engaged in flats fishing do not require a license to do so. Regulations propose to have anglers (over the age of 12 years) apply for and obtain a personal angler license on line prior to their arrival in the country, there is also provisions for application to made in-country. A credit card payment regime will be established for ease of service. The rates proposed will be competitive with other jurisdictions engaged in fly fishing – for example, the weekly license will be $20.00 annual license $60.00.
2) Certified fishing guide
Guides will be required to apply for licenses and be certified. Certification will be done by approved competent fly fishing industry associations in The Bahamas in conjunction with the relevant Bahamas government agencies.
A certified guide will be employed by two (2) or more anglers fishing in the flats by means of a vessel (skiffs etc).
Flats, exclusive fishery zone, authorized persons and other terms are defined in the regulations in the Interpretation section of the regulations.
4) Conservation Fund
A Conservation Fund will be established for the conservation and management of the flats and its fishery resources. The industry is to be a sustainable one. Monitoring the flats fish stock is to take place.
5) Commercial Fishing
Commercial fishing in the flats is prohibited for specific fisheries, i.e. tarpon, snook, permit, bonefish.
6) Protection of the flats fish stock
‘Catch and release’ is the policy to be established. Provisions are made for the grant of a personal angler license for research purposes.
7) General offenses and penalties
Persons contravening these provisions will attract various penalties which are indicated in the Schedule to the regulations.
8) Transitional provisions
These provisions pertain to the certification of guides who have been in the industry in excess of ten (10) years when the regulations come into effect.
The Government of The Bahamas has drafted a straightforward, competitive and environmentally sound piece of legislation that will keep our country abreast of the flats fishing industry standards in this important leisure activity sector of our economy and continue to protect our natural marine resources.