17
Nov 17

Bahamas Regs… where things stand now at the end of 2017

I’ve been traveling, so haven’t posted more about this, but I’m sneaking a few minutes here at work to get some more news out.

The Bahamas regs put into place earlier in the year are still on the books, but won’t be enforced until a thorough review can take place. 

That’s the long and short of it.

So, you can go to the Bahamas and fish however you are used to fishing. For the short/intermediate term, things revert to how they’ve always been.

This makes me want to put the Bahamas back on my travel list for 2018. The uncertainty caused by the regulations have hit the Bahamas hard. Business is down, for most lodges, between 25-50%. That’s a big hit for some places that eek by to begin with. What the govt. of the Bahamas wants to do now is encourage their anglers to come back. So… consider it. I know for me a cold Kalik would go down pretty well.

mmmmm

Here is Beau Beasly’s recent article from MidCurrent.

It is almost certain a license will remain part of what happens down the road, but not until you get get that license on-line, easily, and without having to go to a govt. office that isn’t even open on weekends.

I think most everything else is up for review and I hope it is a thoughtful, inclusive process and produces an end product that puts the Bahamas at the top of resource management. One can hope.


07
Mar 16

Bahamas Regulations Update Part 3,092

This stuff just doesn’t die, does it?

All is well... not to worry.

All is well… not to worry.

There is a new draft of Bahamian regulations making the rounds.

The link is here.

I’ve read it, thought about it and asked around about it a bit. Here’s my take.

It doesn’t look to bad to me. I think there is a little clarification around boats, guides and exactly when you need one, but for the most part, it looks pretty good.

There is no DIY ban. You’ll need a license, but that’s not going to be an issue. No bans on foreign lodges (that was a dumb idea to begin with as other legislation covers foreign investment). Guides will need to be certified, but that is probably also a good thing.

WHY this all looks good is based on who is in control of all the misc. parts. The Ministry of Tourism is put in the driver’s seat. That’s good. The Ministry of Tourism cares about the whole tourism sector, not just one tiny segment of it. They have the wider perspective needed. They are pro-angler and pro-restaurant owner and pro-grocery store owner and pro-Bahamian.

Of course, the “anti” crew isn’t happy about the new draft, which should pretty much tell you this is headed in the right direction.

If I were a betting man, I’d put good money on this whole thing either not happening at all, or very much breaking our way.


29
Feb 16

Hope in the Bahamas

Good people

Good people

Well, look who I saw at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show. That is Cheryl Bastian from Swain’s Cay Lodge and Benjamin Pratt from the Ministry of Tourism. They were there from the Bahamas Outislands Promotion Board, doing their part to help convince people that the Bahamas is still the place to be, mon.

I had a good conversation about all that has gone on and I feel positive about the direction things are headed. There is a new draft of the legislation somewhere and it is foolishness-free. All the good stuff is in, all the bad stuff is out and I feel like this could turn into a real positive.

There is going to be a training program (there actually already is, but it is going to get better), certification of guides and a daily license fee in-line with Florida prices. And, key point, none of this will be controlled by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

On my recent Abaco trip we had no fewer than six people tell us they could guide us for bonefish. Each of those people knew something about bonefish, but not enough to take money for a day on the water. None of those people was “professional guide level.” None of those people had apprenticed under any bonefishing guide. If we had been going after snapper or grouper, they would have been great, but for bonefish… not so much. Training and certification is needed.

I’ve known all along that there were good people out there who are in our corner, fighting the good fight and it was good to meet a couple of them face-to-face and to shake their hands and offer my support as well.

I feel more confident than ever that none of the destructive aspects of the first proposed legislation are going to see the light of day.

Your trip is safe.

Get ye to the Bahamas.


01
Jan 16

What is going to happen in the Bahamas in 2016?

bahamas-marine-life

2015 saw some pretty acrimonious discord for the Bahamas. Efforts to shut down the DIY fishery in spirit, if not in fact, were brought out and paraded around and the ensuing arguments left no one happy.

And then… nothing happened. It has been at least a couple of months since the Attorney General’s office took the proposed legislation and we’ve heard not a peep out of them. The potential reasons for this are many. Here are a few possibilities:

  • The AG’s office is waiting for US anglers to be distracted by something shinny before breaking out something really controversial.
  • The AG’s office is waiting until they deal with more pressing issues, like hurricane relief, before picking something like this up.
  • The powers that be are just letting it die a quiet death, knowing there is no interest in estranging Yank and European anglers who come to the Bahamas and drop some serious coin, year after year, especially with Cuba coming on-line and other destinations like Belize and Mexico still being pretty competitive.

All of that is just total speculation and speculation is all I can really conjure up because the news out of the Bahamas is just the sound of the wind through the mangroves.

As I write this, here on January 1, it seems very likely nothing much will change in the Bahamas in 2016. So, plan your trip. If anything does happen, it won’t be over-night and you’ll have plenty of time to alter if things go badly, but I think the odds of the most odorous of the proposals coming to pass is fading away like that school of bones moving off the flat into deeper water.


13
Oct 15

Press Release from the Bahamas

Here’s a recent press release out of the Bahamas. Basically, they want to remind you that nothing has changed and that the Bahamas is still a fantastic place to visit, even after Hurricane Joaquin screwed a few of the islands up. Hard to argue with any of these points.

This press release should not be taken as a defeat by the BFFIA (Bahamian F-ed-up Fiduciary Insanity Association). This points in that general direction and may be a sign some of the people in positions of power realize the LAST thing needed at this point is a confusing and xenophobic message telling some tourists they are not wanted.

The Cliff Note version of my take on things is this… You want to go to the Bahamas, go ahead. You’ll be able to fish, DIY, semi-DIY, fully-guided, partially-guided, at least for now, and that won’t change abruptly or in the really short-term. Of course, I’d urge you to support those who have supported us, the anglers. And… you may also want to chip in to help those who got leveled by Joaquin to get back on their feet, which you can do here.
—–

BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR BAHAMAS FLATS FISHINGNASSAU,

BAHAMAS, October 8, 2015 — The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (BMOT) wishes to advise that all categories of anglers are welcome to fish The Islands Of The Bahamas this 2015-2016 season and that the vast majority of the islands are ready and open for business as usual after Hurricane Joaquin.

Anglers are further advised that no restriction on fishing, no new taxes, no across the board increase in prices or licensing fees have been introduced. In the event there are any changes, be assured that Ministry officials will notify the global fishing community well in advance.

Throughout The Islands Of The Bahamas you will find a mix of international and locally owned upscale, mid-priced and economy lodges with a range of affordable packages and options. Each bonefish lodge has its own charm and certified guides.

Local guides have been trained to provide a safe and customer friendly angling experience based on globally accepted sustainable principles. The practice of “Catch & Release” fishing is strictly observed.

The Bahamas continues to be the ideal flat fishing destination for avid fishermen with 100,000 square miles of the most renowned fishing flats in the world, and an abundance of fish species including bonefish, permit, tarpon and other tropical sports fishing species. The Out Islands of Abacos, Andros, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, and The Exumas are premiere flats fishing locales.

With close proximity to the Continental United States, just 50 miles from Florida and a 30minute flight via commercial airlines, and average winter temperatures ranging from 21°C to 27°C (or 70°F to 80°F), anglers can still make it for the perfect fall flats fishing experience. Visit http://www.bahamas.com/fishing for more details and to book your fishing trip to The Bahamas today.

About The Islands Of The BahamasThe Islands Of The Bahamas have a place in the sun for everyone from Nassau and Paradise Island to Grand Bahama to The Abaco Islands, The Exuma Islands, Harbour Island, Long Island and others. Each island has its own personality and attractions for a variety of vacation styles withsome of the world’s best golf, scuba diving, fishing, sailing, boating, as well as, shopping and dining. The destination offers an easily accessible tropical getaway and provides convenience for travelers with pre-clearance through U.S. customs and immigration, and the Bahamian dollar is on par with the U.S. dollar. Do everything or do nothing, just remember It’s Better in The Bahamas.

For more information on travel packages, activities and accommodations, call 1-800-Bahamas or visit www.Bahamas.com.

Look for The Bahamas on the web on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Media Contact:Anita Johnson-Patty Bahamas Ministry of Tourism ajohnson@bahamas.com


02
Oct 15

The Drake’s Take

A great satirical look at the Bahamas situation came out in The Drake’s on-line incarnation. I feel honored to have been mentioned for the small role I’ve helped play in keeping people informed.

One of the humorous items on the list was:

6) DIY angling still allowed, but only in two Designated DIY Zones: Swimming Pig Beach on Great Exuma, and Stingray Lagoon at the Atlantis Resort. DIY anglers must fish standing on one foot, wearing only a banana hammock, while singing “March on, Bahamaland.”

See, that’s funny because it sounds a lot like the Unguided Angler areas proposed by our pals over at the BFFIA.

It seems on the surface of things that they are not going to get their way with their long list of power-grabbing proposals. At least, ya know… on the surface.

So... is this it?

So… is this it?

Recently, a Department of Marine Resouces spokesperson had this to say:

“It was also noted that there are persons and companies that offer accommodations throughout the Bahamas who cater specifically to DIY fishers. Given the significance of the DIY portion of the sector, the management measures being contemplated now will require these fishers to obtain a personal license to engage in flats fishing, provide access by these fishers to all fishing flats except those under special management, and also ensure that DIY fishers have the latest information with regard to catch and release methods and fishing etiquette in the Bahamas.”

See… that sounded pretty good at first glance, but I wasn’t the only one to wonder “So, what are these special management areas?”

Is that pre-spawn aggregation points or is that every easily accessible flat on Long Island, Acklins, Crooked, Eluthera and Cat? Basically, is this the Unguided Angler areas in different packaging? Maybe this is everywhere but good ole Singray Lagoon, more or less.

The warm cozy feelings are being replaced by the paranoid questionings as I’m starting to really want to see a map of what they are talking about.

What do you think? Am I being paranoid here?

 

 


25
Sep 15

Light on the Horizon in the Bahamas

Andros South in the morning.

Andros South in the morning.

Well… this certainly looks like good news.

The Department of Marine Resources has come out and alleviated a lot of the fear around what these regulations might look like. It indicates a lot of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes to scrub the most offensive parts of this thing.

DIY is safe.

You’ll need a license.

Guides will be licensed.

Mother ships will continue to be regulated by other laws (even though most people were fine with that going away).

None of that “Unguided Angler Permitted Area” stuff.

No power consolidation in the BFFIA.

Can you hear the collective sigh of relief? I can hear it from all the way in California.

So, don’t cancel that trip. Don’t boycott the Bahamas. No need to get any more worked up over what some of those guys wanted to do. They aren’t going to be able to do any of it.

It appears right now, that the Bahamas might just be saved.


28
Aug 15

Damning

The MidCurrent story, both I & II are getting a lot of eyeballs. There are probably more comments on those two stories than all the stories I’ve written about the topic. It speaks to the authority MidCurrent has as a brand.

If you are still on the fence… I think these comments by our pal Prescott Smith about the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust really should help you pick a side. This is from the MidCurrent story:

BFFIA president Prescott Smith, who argues that BTT resists local input and is out of touch with ordinary Bahamians, says that BFFIA has no relationship with BTT now and no plans to work with the group on common cause conservation concerns in the future. Instead BFFIA works closely with Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association (BSCA), which Smith himself began in 1995 to address conservation issues he believed were of particular importance to Bahamians. According to Smith, BSCA has approximately 250 members; a request for the number of members with fisheries science backgrounds and/or advanced degrees in marine resources or natural resources management went unanswered. In any case, Smith asserts that locals know more about local fish behavior and patterns than do experts who visit the islands for a few months for programs like bonefish tagging.

Really?

Just to be clear… THIS is the organization Prescott won’t work with (and by the way, that is what actual conservation work looks like).

It is unclear if Prescott knew BTT has a Bahamian staff member, living in Grand Bahama, working every day on conservation issues (not weekends, really, working 5 days a week), getting in touch with ordinary Bahamians.

Instead of working with and supporting a world-class conservation organization like BTT, Prescott will only work with an organization he himself started and controls. This is the organization he’s talking about. Last news update on the website was from 2013. There is no list of staff. There is no list of partners or funders. Their facebook page was last updated in 2013. There is a Twitter account, started in 2008 with zero tweets. It is a ghost of an organization.

Incidently, this nearly non-existant entity is the only “Industry Partner” listed on the BFFIA’s website.

These are the partners of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

Which organization would a rational person choose to partner with I wonder?

I mean… is anyone still buying this stuff?

BTT & the Bahamas... they go well together.

BTT & the Bahamas… they go well together.


23
Aug 15

The best comments thread anywhere is on MidCurrent

One of the bones of 2014

One of the bones of 2014

The MidCurrent story on the Bahamas stuff was interesting, sure, but the comments… the comments are pure gold. You simply have to read this stuff, especially the very well reasoned and level-headed responses from Stephen Vletas (author, along with his wife, of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Guide).

I can’t do any better than he did… and I mean, I really can’t. He knows the history because he was part of it and his even-tempered replies are just fantastic reading.

You MUST READ THIS

I’m not so good at remaining civil in the face of the rhetoric. It’s a shortcoming of mine. Give me another 40 years and maybe I’ll make some headway on that. Stephen Vletas is the voice of reason that I sometimes am not. Read it. Now. Go ahead. I’ll wait here.

 


04
Aug 15

The Underpant Gnome School of Economics

I get it now. Prescott and Minister Gray are from the Underpant Gnome School of Economics.

Phase 1. Get rid of the anglers.
Phase 2. ?
Phase 3. Profit

Get it?

It is sooooo clear to me now.

 

A tool that I used to use back in my Foundation/Awarding-Grants days was the Logic Model.

A logic model basically starts with an assumption and then maps it out to see if your assumption is likely to be borne out by the actions and resources applied. I’ll walk you through what this might look like for the proposed regulations push.

Assumptions
These regulations will result in an expanded, more sustainable and more profitable flats fishing industry.

Why these assumptions are misguided.

Expanded Flats Fishing Industry: There will be fewer anglers, not more. Assuming you will convert Unguided Anglers into Guided Anglers by passing regulations doesn’t hold water. Instead, you end up losing the Unguided Anglers who would grab a day or two with a guide. You lose anglers who feel the tone and tenor of the regulations are anti-foreigner. You end up losing family vacationers with an angling dad who wants to be able to walk out on a flat by himself. The pool of days and dollars lost is fairly easy to see, but the pool of net-new angler days is harder to identify. The idea that the industry is expanded by turning away anglers has to rely on an assumption other anglers are waiting to go to the Bahamas but just haven’t yet. I don’t see that as true and neither does anyone else outside of the BFFIA and the Fishy Ministry, I mean Ministry of Fisheries. You make the pie smaller the industry doesn’t magically grow, not unless you are some sort of Underpant Gnome.

More Sustainable Fly Fishing Industry: There have been protected areas proposed and worked on by other organizations (The Nature Conservancy and BTT, to name two) and to come now and make those proposals, as if they are totally new ideas and others haven’t been working on them for years is just dishonest. There are many projects and programs working on conservation now (see this list from BTT), so the recommendations from Prescott merely seeks to take control of those efforts, taking control away from others. The big threats are largely not touched upon. Nothing about over-development or bonefish aggregation points being protected. They want to take over training of guides (and that is something totally needed), but even the guys promoting that effort have shown lapses of judgement that call into doubt the ability of the BFFIA to really do something meaningful here.

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

More Profitable: Fewer anglers = less profit. There won’t be a wholesale conversion of Unguided Anglers to Guided Anglers. It just won’t happen. Independent guides will lose days, maybe a lot of days, from those family trip or DIY/Guided anglers. If prices are raised higher to compensate, even more people will choose other locations. There will still be anglers coming to the Bahamas to fish with lodges, but the total number of days will drop. Which guides are going to lose out? How is the increased profit going to come from fewer angler days?

The Bahamas has been a great DIY location due to the vastness of the flats. No other Caribbean nation has the flats that the Bahamas does. However, if you restrict DIY to the point it is not viable you make those resources indistinguishably from other locations. Add on top of that the bad blood being stirred up and you end up losing a ton of business.

You can’t turn  your clients and customers away and expect that to lead, magically, to all sorts of positive outcomes… unless you are one of these guys…