31
Jan 17

What to do about the Bahamas

stormy times for the Bahamas

I’m conflicted. I love the Bahamas, but the government of the Bahamas doesn’t love me back and some of its people are downright hostile to how I want to vacation and spend my time and money. So… what am I to do?

The new law has been rolled out and it has been a bit bumpy from what I’ve heard. Have not heard about people being denied, just that some folks who are supposed to issue the licenses don’t seem to have a firm grip on what is going on and you may have to wait a full day or two to actually get the license. I have not heard about enforcement issues yet, but then, I don’t hear everything so I wouldn’t rule it out.

What I do know is the trip I took last February is a trip I can’t take in 2017. I rented a boat and a friend and I fished together, without a guide, for the last three days of the trip. That would be illegal to do now. This fact bums me out.

I’d still be able to go around on foot, or use a kayak or canoe to get around, but that boat is no longer an option. I’d still be able to go and use a guide, either through a lodge or on my own, which does change the price dynamics a bit, but, you still get the Bahamas that way, but I won’t spend a dime on those who fought against us.

There are plenty of operations who have fought the good fight, on behalf of all anglers and for the Bahamian people, and they stand to lose if we just all stay away. Folks like Abaco Lodge, Bairs Lodge, Delphi, East End Lodge, Swain’s Cay and Black Fly, just to name a very few, all fought hard for us and I don’t want them to be hurt for doing what was right.

If you want to go to the Bahamas, there are two places to check out:

  • Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures – They aren’t booking the anti lodges. They’ve been in the game for a long time. They know Prescott, have known him for years, and they were very involved in the fight. If they have a destination in the Bahamas, you can feel better knowing they are on the right side of this thing.
  • Abaco Fly Fishing Guide’s Association – If you want to know if a guide or lodge is pro-angler, ask if they support the AFFGA or the BFFIA. If they support the former, you are golden. If they support the later, well… I won’t fish with them, I know that much.

It isn’t good in the Bahamas right now. I was just reading one lodge owner saying his business was off 70%. People are hurting.

So, don’t stay away if you are going on a lodge trip. But please, spend your dollars wisely.


13
Jan 17

Comments from Yellow Dog on the Bahamian Regulations

Yellow Dog knows a thing or two about the Bahamas and Ian Davis has been going there longer than I’ve been fly fishing. He knows the lodges and the people and he wrote his thoughts up about the regs and what they will mean for the Bahamas going forward.

You can read these thoughts here.

The regulations are in place now and it looks like licenses are being issued. Don’t know how it is working on some of the smaller islands. If you have experiences, please let me know.

Another DIY GBI bonefish

 


07
Jan 17

All the news that’s fit to print, and some that isn’t. Reaction to new regs.

I’m just going to leave this here for y’all to peruse at your leisure. Here are a few of the stories about the new regulations in the Bahamas, set to go into effect on Jan. 9, despite the whole nation being woefully unprepared for the mechanism the law lays out.

Abaco Guides Fear ‘Irreparable Harm’ Via New Regulation

New Regulations a “Slap in the Face” says, Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association

Fly Fishing Penalties ‘Draconian, Hostile’

Bahamas Moves to Protect Fly Fishing Industry

Fly Fishing Rules ‘One Of Most Important Laws Since Majority Rule’

Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association Blasts New Bahamas Flats Fishing Regulations

Just an aside… the Bahamian government websites (like this) where people would actually go to see what the regulations are do not, in fact, have any of that information up yet… and it is supposed to all start on Monday.


04
Jan 17

The bluster and the long game – Bahamas Regulations Update

The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFFIA) president yesterday hailed imminent regulations to govern the sector as “one of the biggest pieces of legislation to come about since 1967”, as “closing the loopholes” will increase foreign currency earnings for Bahamians. (full story here)

1967 was the year the Bahamas became an independent nation. Yes… Prescott is saying his fly fishing regulation law is one of the most important things since Bahamian home rule. That doesn’t sound like an overstatement at all, does it?

Gone is any pretense that this is about conservation. If you recall the first days of this particular episode of this fight it was shrouded in envrio-speak. It was to protect the fish. But it never was about that. It isn’t even about what the regulations say or do now. There is a long game here and this is just part of it.

Mr Conservation, demonstrating proper handling of a bonefish.

Prescott, as he says himself, has been fighting this battle for 23 years. He’s not done. He’s laying a foundation.

“Most people don’t realise(sic) that because they hear the term ‘fly fishing’, but it’s the first piece of legislation that lays the foundation for building ownership by local Bahamians. It doesn’t matter your economic standing; there is something in this industry for you to lay claim to. That is what the legislation does. This is so huge.”

This is about who owns the lodges and where the money goes. Prescott doesn’t like foreign owned lodges since they are the competition and they are competitors that book more days at higher prices. They have more access to capital. They have nicer boats. They “speak American” in a sense and know how to meet client expectations. A lot of the big lodges are foreign owned, maybe all the big ones, but there are several Bahamian owned lodges as well. Water Cay and Swain’s Cay come to mind.

The way Prescott sees it, every dollar spent in the Bahamas that doesn’t go to a Bahamian is a kind of national crime, a continuation of economic colonialism. The first draft of the legislation we saw took aim at foreign owned lodges, despite there being ample legislation on the books about how investments in the Bahamas could be made. The aim, the long game, really is about getting rid of foreign owned lodges.

In the legislation snuck through there is little that impacts most DIY fishing, unless you had your own skiff or rented one while there. There is a license you need to purchase (the actual mechanics for that seem to be mostly FUBAR, but that’s another post). However, think of the long game here. Prescott seems to see any anglers fishing Bahamian flats without paying a Bahamian guide as stealing directly from the guide community and it is very much in his long term plan to change that.

Now, you can claim I’m doomsaying and you can say the regulations don’t limit DIY fishing, but let’s see how the regulations are enforced, how the licensing mechanisms work and let’s see what comes next. I’m gazing into the future here a bit, but I also have talked to a lot of people who have known Prescott for years and they all say this is where he has long said he wants to go. I just think I see the path he’s taking.

Prescott, and his supporters in the guide community and in the government, have been sold on the idea you can convert every second-home owner into a fly fishing guide client and every DIY angler can and will pay for a guide to fish the Bahamas. They also believe foreign lodge owners can be pushed out, and maybe the booking agents as well and that when it is all in Bahamian hands it will be an economic boon.

They believe, when all is said and done, this legislation will result in more days booked with Bahamian guides at Bahamian lodges and more money will be spent and will stay in the Bahamas.

Those of us opposed to this legislation disagree with that math. There will be fewer guide days booked in 2017 than in 2016, especially for independent guides. Bahamian lodges that struggled before will continue to struggle. Second home prices will drop and the economic boost construction and remodeling gave will disappear. Places like Ragged may never get fished (legally) while the legislation stands (a place with 67 inhabitants is unlikely to be able to support a licensed guide). Businesses which rent lodging or cars or boats or provide meals to DIY anglers will suffer. In short, we believe you can’t dictate too much to your consumers, your clients without it coming back to bite you in the arse.

Beyond just what it does to anglers, how about the fact that under this legislation a local Bahamian going out and catching a mutton snapper in 5 feet of water will need a license and could be fined if he doesn’t have one. A license fee or fine is a big deal in a place with a minimum wage of $4.00/hour and unemployment over 14%. The birthright of every Bahamian to go catch their dinner in the sea was just voted away behind closed doors. No one even seems to know it has happened.

The wounds will be self-inflicted and they will be deep and I honestly think we’ve only seen a glimpse of what gets built on this foundation.

Was this my last Bahamian bonefish?


17
Dec 16

The latest Bahamas draft is here

The latest version of this dumpster fire is out. You can find it here.

This thing is supposed to be live on January 1, but there is no infrastructure set up yet. It seems very unlikely to be life Jan. 1, but at this point, who really knows?

Minister Gray seems singularly bad at administering pretty much anything, so, who knows?

From what I hear the meeting last week was illuminating. Again there was this rational that this legislation was needed because second home owners were running illegal bonefishing lodges. That, of course, is fantasy, but, ya know… there are folks in this country saying 3 million people voted illegally in California. Both claims have about equal veracity, but, if people feel it to be true it may not matter.

This is post-facts Bahamas. This is “acting in direct opposition of own economic interests” Bahamas. This is mind-numbing and frustrating and a bit like throwing pebbles at the waves (or flies at permit).

If I sign any deeper I’ll pass out.

Just a reminder… if you fish at a lodge, this really won’t impact you at all. You have a week with Oliver’s crew in Abaco or at Andros South, you will not be impacted by this. If you are fishing out of Deep Water Cay or Water Cay, you are totally fine. This doesn’t mess up most of the trips you might dream of taking in the Bahamas.

It does, however, screw with a lot of people… second home owners/skiff owners and DIY guys that used boats (even a two person canoe is out).

So, we wait and see. We wait to see if the legislation is going to go into effect on Jan. 1, like Mis-Minister Gray is insisting. We need to see how this is implemented and exactly how bad things get.

 


12
Dec 16

Gets worse and worse and worse

So… details of a recent meeting with stakeholders have squeaked out and it seems like my initial read on things was maybe a bit optimistic.

Licenses won’t be available on-line on January 1st. You’ll have to go to a govt. office to get one and you won’t be able to get one on a weekend.

Second home owners and folks with skiffs in the Bahamas are just screwed. There was something about “if they can afford a boat, they can afford a guide.” There are no accommodations being made. The whole thing reeks of xenophobia and resentment.

This all is aimed squarely at ending DIY and maybe shutting down competing lodges by putting the power to anoint guides in the hands of the BFFIA. The first draft, the worst one, may have actually tipped their hand at what they were really after.

This is likely the first step in more to come.

I’m deeply saddened by all of this. I can’t wait to be proven wrong.


08
Dec 16

Bahamas Regulations – Done Deal

bahamas-marine-life

It appears this is happening… January 1, 2017, much faster than anyone thought and with much less notice than was promised. It is happening without a vote in Parliament since it was pitched as a revision to existing legislation. (Now, I don’t know that this will, in fact, launch on Jan. 1, but that is what Minister Gray said, explicitly.)

This, I think, is what got passed, more or less, with maybe some very minor changes.

The big winner in all of this is Prescott Smith. His organization, the BFFIA, looks to be the entity that will control who guides in the Bahamas. That has always seemed like one of the main drivers. The organization he leads will train and certify guides. It is a lot of power and I would not be surprised to see it abused by someone so clearly capable of carrying a grudge and lashing out at those who question him. Prescott has a real anti-foreigner streak, ironic if you know his past, and he seems to be living out some long held revenge fantasy.

The main loser is, for sure, the Bahamian people, who now will have to pay the government to fish the flats, something they’ve never had to do. Water 1-6 feet in depth includes a heck of a lot of water now off limits unless you are paying. It is mind-numbing to think the Bahamian people would accept this, but this issue seems has attracted almost no attention from the media or from non-industry Bahamians.

The second biggest loser in all of this appears to be second home owners and ex-pats who have boats in the Bahamas. They will not be able to take anyone out with them to fish without a guide. Two people fishing is one too many, according to what I see as the regs. There is some debate if a boat owner would be able to fish, at all, without a guide, but I think a single angler can take their own boat out. More detail is needed here, but it isn’t good.

For the average bonefish angler, you can still do DIY, but you just can’t use a boat. Kayak? You bet. Two person Kayak? No. Canoe with one angler? Yes. Canoe with two anglers? No.

Funds raised by anglers will go half to the government and half for conservation. I’d bet a fair bit of that conservation money will go to the Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association, which is a hardly-existing entity run by… care to guess? Yup… Prescott. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but somehow, I think I’ll be right about it, which is math that shows only one winner (and it isn’t the Bahamas).

So, we started out with an effort to severely limit DIY and ended up with a power play to financially benefit a few of the chosen PLP anointed. It was always about money and power to one degree or another.

How this thing is enforced is going to determine how bad it gets for the Bahamas. If some wayward flats fisherman gets put in jail for 6 months or if anglers on their own get harassed, it is going to be bad.

Lodges may see a little dip in business, as the tenor and tone of the regulations are not friendly and the intent of their creator is clearly xenophobic and malevolent, but if you were going to spend a week at Bairs or Andros South or Delphi or wherever, this will add just a few dollars to a several thousand dollar tab and you might not notice anything. It is the folks lower on the totem that will go without the business.

It has been a mess and has eaten up more time than I’ve spent fishing this year. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong on all my doomsaying. I’d love nothing more than to be wrong.


06
Dec 16

How it happens – Bahamas Edition

How could the government of the Bahamas possibly think of taking away the birthright of their citizens to go out and fish in their back yard? How could they exclude so many from coming to the Bahamas to fish to enrich a very, very few? How could they consolidate power into a few chosen hands?

Well…

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas and the guy who wants to control the flats fishing industry.

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas and the guy who wants to control the flats fishing industry.

This is how.

They are in cahoots. They are working together.

I think it is no accident that our pal Prescott here started work on a fueling station in Andros far in advance of the recent proposal to allow the Chinese in to rape assist the Bahamians with a bit of fishing. Even if that proposal doesn’t end up going through, there is certainly a cronyism thing going on there in the Bahamas with the PLP.

Pretty sad for the Bahamas.


05
Nov 16

Bahamas Regulations, Episode 834

101lwn

For the love of all that is holy and good… I want this to end. But, the forces of darkness (or, in this case, the force of darkness, singular) never seem to sleep.

Happy in the Bahamas, a scene not likely to be repeated.

Happy in the Bahamas, a scene not likely to be repeated.

There is a new draft (that link should take you there) of the regulations as a result of back-door dealing from he-who-must-not-be-named.

Here are the take-aways, as far as I can see them.

  1. Oh Bahamians… look out. This idea that the Shell Man from Andros now has to pay $40 to fish the waters his father and his father’s father fished for free… that idea is back and it comes with the possibility of a $2,000 fine AND/OR 6 weeks in jail. Really, I think the average Bahamian has zero clue this is coming.
  2. BIIIIIIG Middle finger to second home owners and ex-pats. You can’t fish out of a boat with more than one person without a guide. So… if you’ve lived in the Bahamas for 30 years, you can’t take your wife out fishing. All those guys who spend the money to build or buy a house out there and pay the huge fees involved with getting a boat out there… all that is wasted money if this passes. I have to think the economic impact of second home owners and ex-pats is just nowhere on the radar of the segment of the government that is pushing this stuff.
  3. Enshrined, but not named. The BFFIA is pretty well installed as the decider of most things in this, all without being named. This sets H-W-M-N-B-N as the king-maker, without it being clearly stated that is what is going on. Of course, not like he’s not a vindictive, grudge-carrying, score-settling asshole of the highest magnitude, right? I mean… what could go wrong?

I, along with just about everyone else, thought this stuff was put to bed. It isn’t. At this point I’m not sure where it goes now or what the next steps are. I understood this was in the cabinet, and maybe it is. It isn’t law yet, I know that. But exactly where it is in process… man, I’ve lost the thread.

An interesting aside is that Minister Gray seems to be pushing a massive investment by the Chinese in Andros, all at the same time he’s pushing taking away the rights of the average Bahamian to fish their own waters for free. People are really not a fan of this latest Minister Gray ploy.

Just to be a little bit of a conspiracy freak here… who is building a fuel station in Andros? Could it be our old pal Prescott? Think he knew about this secret deal being in the works with the Chinese and his patron, Minister Gray? Doesn’t seem so far fetched, does it? The guardian of the bonefish, strips out a bunch of mangroves to put in a fueling station in Andros to service the soon-to-arrive Chinese fleets? I hope not.

 


20
Jul 16

The Sound and the Fury of PS

If we are happy about the direction of the regulations in the Bahamas, you can bet that our our pal, PS, is not… and he really, really is not. Below, I quote his open letter to Minister Grey. If you read it, and it is not a fun thing to do, just keep in mind he doesn’t seem to call out any one provision to argue against (except the price of the license, which he compares to Colorado, but gets the details wrong). His arguments are nebulous, difficult to get a grasp on, which is pretty much how he’s carried out his opposition to the counter proposals to his own the entire time.

Um... isn't that they guy saying we are all doing it wrong?

Um… isn’t that they guy saying we are all doing it wrong?

The way you should argue is to call out a provision and let us know what impact you think it would have and then suggest an alternative and state why you think it is superior. But old PS doesn’t do that. Maybe he can’t do that. Maybe his mind doesn’t work like that. I don’t know, but that sort of analytical response is something he’s never been able to do without disappearing down a rabbit hole of xenophobia, paranoia and hostility. He can’t stay focused on policy or outcome. His whole argument, for more than a year now, has just been sound and fury and raw emotion and nearly incomprehensible. I say nearly, but really, it is more like totally incomprehensible. How can one person say so much while saying so little?

One can only hope he stand by his threat to resign from the BFFIA. It would be in the best interest of Bahamians, of the guides who work to find us fish so hard in the Bahamas and for us, the clients and customers of those guides, who, together, make up the industry.

 

Dear Prime Minister, Minister Gray and other Cabinet Ministers,

The only thing I have left to give this country is MY LIFE. As I sit here in Colorado, returning home sometime this evening, I have been bombarded from Fly Fishing Guides all around The Bahamas who are screaming about a press Conference held in Orlando at the world’s largest Sportfishing show. THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, I came to The Cabinet of the same PLP Government to get basic legislation done to protect the LARGEST FLATS ON EARTH in the interest of BAHAMIANS and to legitimize the Guiding profession.

Minister Gray, it is a total insult for your PS to be doing a press Conference side by side with The Out Island Promotion Board. The same Minister of Tourism, who has shown ZERO Support 13 years ago for Legislation in the interest of Bahamians, is the same Minister of Tourism who has fought us today every step of the way.

As President of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, I will not be a part of any such Legislation that SELLS out Bahamian interest and GIVES control of our resources to foreign interest and special interest. ALL present promotion Boards of Tourism have fought us every step of the way trying to block this Legislation. They are totally Controlled by special interest and foreign interest who see Bahamians as playing a token role in our number ONE INDUSTRY. BFFIA is the first and only Association in the Country where the Board is controlled and made up of Bahamians who look like the majority of the citizens of The Bahamas. Ironically, it is the only such association that gets zero SUPPORT from our PLP Minister of Tourism and our Ministry of Tourism in general, which claims to put Bahamians first.

Further, this is not a threat, although you may see it as one. In light of these developments, I am prepared to Resign publicly and let The Bahamian people know that after 23 years and going through 7 Ministers of Tourism, we are still struggling in OUR COUNTRY to get through the many GLASS CEILINGS that exist for OUR PEOPLE with respect to real economic empowering opportunities. We pander too much to the special and foreign interests, as if we are like little children who are afraid to cut our own path in life.

My Return home today will be met by hundreds of Guides from Inagua to Grand Bahama who are questioning whether the Government, which was the same with successive Administrations, truly has their best interests at heart.

As you can see, I have attached a fishing license from Colorado, which cost me 14 dollars for a one day license and raises a serious question. Why is our Government telling the world that we will charge 20 dollars a week to fish the best flats in the world? Again the special interests, who totally control our Ministry of Tourism, is advising The Bahamas Government, because we lack the much needed confidence in our own.

[Bjorn – a comment – I see a CO week license at $21, according to their website. A day is $9. So, even the stuff it would be easy to get right, he gets wrong.]

Minister Wilchombe, I have been in Andros now for 23 years, which as you know is the largest island in The Bahamas. It follows, therefore, that I have NEVER seen The Ministry of Tourism hold a single meeting collectively with regards to addressing Tourism on Andros. Even though we have the most Guides in The Country, we have one Family that came from Canada dictating to your Ministry what should happen in Tourism on Andros. They have now been joined by a token black Member of that Board who is prepared to sell her Country and her Soul to the special and foreign interests for pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits no doubt. Is it any wonder that we are no longer number one in the Caribbean the way we run Tourism in our Country? You have not even shown the common courtesy of acknowledging a single communication from The Board of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, while publicly claiming to put Bahamians FIRST.

Also Cabinet Ministers, you need to know that such persons, like Perk Perkins from Orvis, Ian Davis from Yellowdog Fly fishing, Oliver White the front for Abaco Lodge and Bairs Lodge, are some of the many special interests behind the scenes advising our Ministry of Tourism. Jim Klug, who is part owner of Yellowdog, is also on the Board of The American Fly Fishing Trade Association. It was, therefore, no surprise that they all sat in the room in Orlando yesterday.

Finally Mr. Prime Minister, you had the courage to put this vital piece of Legislation on the agenda to move it forward and, Minister Gray, you have had the courage to lead this important Legislation when our Minister of Tourism fought us every step of the way. So that you are aware, I got instructions from The Father of our nation, as he sat in a van in Staniard Creek and shared with me his vision for Bahamians and The Bahamas. All his books I have read and are in my possession! While he began the journey that led initially to our political independence, he acknowledged that the next step in our journey was and remains economic independence. A Country and People cannot be empowered when its resources are controlled for the benefit of the special and foreign interests, as is sadly the present economic model in our beloved country. Needless to say, this is for ALL of you in Cabinet who like to call Sir Lynden’s name but refuse to live up to what he was really all about. From the College of The Bahamas to the Defence force to the many other institutions he established, this Historic Legislation is a part of the journey to reach true economic independence .

 

Yours sincerely,

Prescott Smith
President
Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association
P O Box CB-13498
Nassau, Bahamas