Sustainable Fisheries

Bahamians For Sustainable Fisheries (BFSF) calls for overhaul of the Fisheries Act
February 27, 2010

Contact Sam Duncombe, reEarth 362 27242 or 456 6496
Gail Woon, Earthcare 374-4945 or 727-0797

As a result of the purposed Purse Seine netting on highly migratory fish in the territorial waters of The Bahamas a new alliance has been forged. Bahamians for Sustainable Fisheries (BFSF), is made up of the following NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), reEarth, EARTHCARE, Save Guana Cay, Abaco Cares, Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment, Bahamas Marine Mammal Research, Abaco Fly Fishing Guides. The BFSF is calling on the Government of The Bahamas to call ALL interested parties together to overhaul the Fisheries Act.

The various NGOs have been flooded with calls, emails and queries about the fishing vessel "The Pelagic” based in Freeport which proposed to use gear that until now had not been used within the waters of the Bahamas.

The Ministry of Fisheries acted swiftly after being inundated with calls and letters about the net fishing. We applaud the Ministry’s recognition of the problems associated with this kind of fishery and their response to "make the necessary amendments to the Fisheries Conservation (Jurisdiction and Conversation) Act and Regulations to close a legislative loophole that would have made it legal to do so”. It would be remarkable if every Ministry reacted so quickly to the public’s concerns.

BFSB also commends the immediate response from all sectors of the public in exposing their concerns. This is a huge win for The Bahamas today.

The method of purse seine fishing has been practiced throughout the globe usually with dire consequences. Tropical purse seining has been on the decline due to the efficiency of the gear. Many purse seiners have in essence fished themselves out of a job.

However, it is not as though fisheries are only impacted by fishing – fisheries face significant additional threats from land and marine based pollution as well as threats as a result of warming seas and reef die offs due to global warming.

In 1993 a similar fishing issue arose threatening Bahamian marine resources – longline fishing. Earthcare and reEarth and Ocean Watch staged 3 demonstrations in Rawson Square to exhibit the wide spread opposition to this form of fishing. Over 10,000 concerned residents signed our petition to ban this fishing practice. While we did not achieve a total ban, a longline vessel would need 100% cabinet approval to operate. To date, as far as we have been told, there have been no licenses granted.

The speed in which the Bahamian public responds to fisheries issues calls attention to the huge concern we have in protecting them.

The Pew Oceans Commission reported in 2003 that widespread overfishing was one of the reasons why numbers of fish within many prime species have been significantly reduced by the use of high-tech fishing practices that deplete fish stocks, degrade nursery areas and produce wasteful bycatch. In 2005 another Pew study found that predatory fish populations, including shark, tuna and North Atlantic cod continue to spiral downward with many species dropping 90% or more in the past 40-50 years.

In 2004, the US Commission on Ocean Policy reported that "25% to 30% of the world’s major fish stocks are overexploited and that US fisheries are experiencing similar difficulties. Of the nation’s 267 major fish stocks….roughly 20% are either already overfished, experiencing overfishing, or approaching an overfished condition.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2005 found that global stocks of most fish are stretched to their limits. Nearly a quarter of commercial species have already been overexploited, with a total of 70% of species now being fished close to, at or beyond their capacity.

The purse seine netting issue highlights what we learned in the longline issue, Bahamians will rise to the occasion to protect their fisheries. This underscores the need for the Bahamas to totally revamp what have been, and continue to be archaic fishing regulations. Fisheries needs to move into the 21st century and take into account all of the science available regarding fisheries equipment, the status of global fisheries as well as other issues that directly impact our fisheries and enact legislation that protects, conserves and sustains our marine life well into the future.