In recent years, the fluctuating and often bizarre news coming out of the Bahamas—in regards to it’s changing views and governance of flats fishing access and conservation—has been nothing, if not confusing. Today, the shouting and name-calling has all but died out, and rising from the regulatory dust cloud is a new blueprint of Bahamian fishing and guiding codification and law. Below, are the most recent statements from the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Alfred Gray, in which he explains the recent changes and what it means for visitors and locals alike.
The Hon. V. Alfred Gray, MP.,
Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources
Establishment of A Regulatory Framework For
The Fly Fishing Industry in The Bahamas
In the Conference Room of the Ministry of
Agriculture and Marine Resources
Wednesday, 4th January 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, the fly-fishing industry (world-wide) is said to be with (in revenue terms) over 5 billion dollars and in the Bahamas, it is said to be worth more than $500 million in revenue annually. For almost 20 years and under several administrations, the men and women involved in the industry, led by one Prescott Smith, have been seeking to have this very important industry regulated and include legal framework, which would set out the rules and regulations to govern the industry in the Bahamas.
About 6 or 7 years ago, the majority of the guides in the Bahamas, formed themselves in to a registered body called the “Bahamas fly fish association. Two years ago, the government of the Bahamas, (led by my ministry), agreed to the regulation of the fly-fishing industry in the Bahamas. As a result, months of consultations and negotiations began with all stakeholders throughout the Bahamas. These consultations resulted in draft regulations being prepared and presented to the cabinet for its consideration. After several drafts and worldwide circulation of the same, cabinet finally approved the regulations in October of 2016.
Ladies and gentlemen, the flats fishing sector, is an important part of the Bahamas’ tourism product and is responsible for the employment of hundreds of Bahamians throughout the Bahamas. This is particularly true for the islands of Andros, Abaco, Acklins, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Bimini, Long Island and Mayaguana. Because this sector was not governed by any form of regulations, those involved in the industry, acted as they desired, without rules or regulations and without any safeguard for conservation and sustainability of the industry. This position we believe could not be continued.
As far as we are aware, the Bahamas was the only country in the Caribbean and the Americas, and other competing jurisdiction, which had no law governing the fly fish industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, its important for me to say, that the consultative meetings, were attended by all stakeholders, inclusive of the ministry of tourism, fishing guides, marina and hotel operators, fishing lodge operators, Bahamas national trust, and other conservation groups, and non-government organizations. All under the watchful eyes and guidance of the attorney general’s office, with input from the department of marine resources.
In addition, to the meetings held, my ministry also solicited the views, and did receive inputs from interested persons and private sector stakeholders (who were unable to attend the meetings) via email, and fax messages, which emails and faxes were all scrutinized acknowledged and where necessary, those views were factored into the final regulation.
These regulation will require all persons using the flats, such as guides anglers and DIY’s, to have a license issued by the department of marine resources in new providence, or the family island administrators in the family islands and soon we will have the licenses issued on line, for a small license fee – daily fee is $5.00, weekly fee is $20.00 and yearly fee is $60.00. All guides are expected to be certified overtime by the ministry of tourism and the department of marine resources, in conjunction with approved fly fishing associations in the Bahamas.
SOME OF THE THINGS TO NOTE
- BAHAMIAN CERTIFIED FISHING GUIDES WILL BE EMPLOYEDNECESSARY IF TWO(2) OR MORE ANGLERS ARE FISHING IN THE FLATS BY MEANS OF A VESSEL (SKIFFS, ETC).
- ONLY BAHAMIAN REGISTERED VESSELS WILL BE ALLOWED ON THE FLATS.
- ONLY BAHAMIANS WILL BE ALLOWED TO ACT AS GUIDES.
- ALL ANGLERS OVER THE AGE OF 12 WILL NEED A LICENCE TO FISH.
- DO IT YOURSELFERS OR DYI’s WILL NEED NO FISHING GUIDE.
- A CONSERVATION FUND WILL BE ESTABLISHED FOR THE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF THE FLATS AND ITS FISHERY RESOURCES.
- NO COMMERCIAL FISHING IN THE FLATS WILL BE ALLOWED.
- THE FISHERY COVERED BY THIS REGULATION INCLUDES THE BONE FISH, THE TARPON, THE COBIA AND THE PERMIT FISHERIES.
- THE FINES AND PENALTIES AS SET OUT IN REGULATIONS WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED.
Finally ladies and gentlemen, I hereby announce today that these regulations will come into effect on Monday, 9th January 2017. I know if everyone does their part in the observance of these regulations, the fly fishing industry in the Bahamas will grow from strength to strength.
For more info or to contact local officials go to www.bahamas.gov.bs
To read Miles Nolte’s story “Muddy Waters in the Bahamas,” an in-depth coverage of these events and regulations as written for American Angler magazine, CLICK HERE.