By Rashad Rolle
Fears have been raised over the future of the fishing industry by local fishermen who are calling on the government to ramp up its fight against poachers.
The Tribune was told yesterday that poachers from the Dominican Republic are increasingly fishing during closed season – leaving fewer fish for law-abiding locals who fish during open season.
“We’ve been talking about this for the last 10 to 12 years and it’s just getting worse,” said Emile Knowles, a Long Island fisherman who said that of the 20 days in every five weeks that he fishes, he encounters poachers on at least 14 days.
A Bahamian delegation travelled to the Dominican Republic for talks about a bilateral agreement to address the issue amid the government’s approval of a $200 million investment in new patrol boats and port facilities for the Defence Force earlier this year.
Nonetheless, when asked for a comment yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said: “I would think in terms of enforcement, the issue is really resources. What happened is the agreement between the Dominican Republic and ourselves is largely finished; one or two things the lawyers have to do. In any event, fishermen should contact the Defence Force, they are responsible for guarding the waters and if they see poachers call the Defence Force and they’ll go out and guard the waters.”
However, local fishermen said Defence Force officers are reluctant to respond to their alerts about poachers and conduct poor investigations when they do.
“Poachers are not their priority,” said Keith Carroll, 52, of Faith Avenue.
“Haitians, they are their priority. When you call the Defence Force and say you see some Dominican boats, they go and if they don’t see them, they go right back. They don’t wait or be strategic.” More....