By Neil Hartnell
Fishermen yesterday described this week’s capture of a Dominican fishing vessel and its crew as “just the tip of the iceberg”, estimating that a “conservative” $20 million worth of fish was stolen annually from Bahamian waters.
Adrian LaRoda, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) president, called for the 17 Dominicans seized by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to be “given jail time” in order to send a message that this nation was serious about cracking down on poaching of its fish stock.
And he said the episode again indicated that any assurances from the Dominican Republic government about helping in the poaching crackdown were meaningless, given that it had no reason to assist the Bahamas.
“To be honest with you, we are looking to see if all those fishermen are given jail time and taken away from their families,” Mr LaRoda told Tribune Business.
Suggesting this might make them, and their fellow poachers, think twice about returning to Bahamian waters, the BCFA chief added: “Too often they’re arrested, given some fine and sent back to the Dominican Republic. A couple of weeks later, they return on another vessel.
“Make an example of them to make them understand we take poaching very seriously, and the penalties are very stiff. These guys come here equipped with the funds to bail themselves out and pay the fines. They expect to pay the fine if arrested, and be released.
“The capture of this vessel is the tip of the iceberg. It’s the same boats over and over again, and we complain about them. There are five other boats here poaching frequently, and we’d like to see them captured also.”
Still, Mr LaRoda said the weekend apprehension of the Dominican ‘mother ship’ near Cay Lobos had helped the Bahamian public to “understand these guys take a lot of product out of the Bahamas”.
While the vessel seized at the weekend was around 70 feet long, and had freezer capacity for between 40,000-50,000 pounds of captured fish, the BCFA president added that some Dominican vessels spotted in Bahamian waters were up to 120 feet long, with 60,000 pounds of storage capacity. More....