Fishing is a vital part of the Bahamas local economy. Agriculture and fisheries account for around 5% of the GDP. But that industry has been in danger for years due to poachers. Now local fishermen are calling on the government to do something about it.
The waters of The Bahamas make for good fishing. It has both shallow banks that are home to a number of commercially lucrative fish and deep-water passages that allow for the migration of fish and other marine animals. Only Bahamians are allowed to fish commercially in the local waters, but that hasn’t stopped other foreigners from doing so illegally.
Bahamian fishermen want stiffer penalties to deter poachers from fishing in Bahamian waters. They have cause to be worried too. Just a week ago, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) arrested 46 Dominican fishermen who were illegally fishing.
In 2016, 10 Dominicans were captured for poaching off of the Southern Bahamas. They were ordered to pay the maximum fine of $170,000 or spend 8 months in prison. Local fishermen don’t feel it’s enough though. The fine is small compared to what the illegal poachers make in a day.
Fisherman set out to make around $100,000 in fish per year, but they can lose up to 51% of that profit from poachers. On a good day, fishermen can catch up to 5,000 fish, which can earn them an estimated $21,000 in sales. When they have to compete with illegal poachers, as well as other legal competitors, those profits take a huge cut.
The Bahamian government has recently committed to amending legislation in order to put in stiffer penalties. However, fishermen aren’t optimistic. They’ve heard this promise before without it ever happening.
Fishing also plays a vital role in Bahamas tourist economy. Recreational fishing makes up a huge chunk of money earned from tourists. The Bahamas has a number of highly coveted fish such as blue marlin and bonefish. The ocean is an ecosystem though, and commercial overfishing, either legal or illegal, could impact the prevalence of all fish species.
Hopefully, the government will finally head the concerns of local fishermen. This industry is vital to The Bahamas economy. The current penalties are clearly not working since poachers continue to be apprehended despite the fines they face. Only time will tell what will come of it.