By Sasha Lightbourne
A Cuban fishing vessel was apprehended by Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship Nassau last Thursday, for illegal foreign fishing, possession of sharks and long line fishing apparatus in Bahamian waters.
According to a press release sent out by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) yesterday, HMBS Nassau under the Command of Lieutenant Commander Raymond King was on routine patrol on the Great Bahama Banks when the 50-foot Cuban Vessel was intercepted approximately 87 miles southwest of Ragged Island.
Upon further investigation by Nassau’s boarding party, a quantity of scale fish, lobster and sharks were discovered onboard.
Six Cuban nationals were subsequently detained and transported to Coral Harbour Base along with their vessel and fisheries products where they were handed over to authorities from the Department of Marine Resources and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for further processing.
Last month, HMBS Nassau, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Gregory Brown apprehended a fishing vessel from the Dominican Republic with approximately 40,000 pounds of fisheries products.
The captain and 17 crew members were found guilty of fishing illegally in Bahamian waters and were awarded fines totaling $96,000.
The Dominican fishing vessel was also confiscated.
In October, a delegation, headed by Foreign Affairs Minister, Fred Mitchell, met in the Dominican Republic with Dominican officials specifically on the issue of their citizens fishing illegally in our waters.
When Minister Mitchell returned, he said that the government believed that it had “an obligation to ensure that we used diplomacy as the first line of defence.”
He said that Dominican Republic President Denilo Medina had pledged that The Bahamas’ poaching problems would be addressed.
Mr. Mitchell also said that a $200 million investment would have to be made to better equip the Defence Force to patrol the country’s borders.
Minister of Fisheries, V. Alfred Gray, who was also a part of last year’s delegation, said they would “look for” the Attorney General’s Office to amend the Fisheries Act to increase the penalties for poaching from $5,000 to $250,000 and 25 years in prison.