I write this post to the Bahamian people. I am not Bahamian. In fact, I live a long, long way from the Bahamas. There are some things I think you need to know about things going on in your country you likely don’t know much about. The reason you don’t know much about them is because they are going to be pretty bad for many of you, and, given how politics tends to work, those behind the efforts aren’t too keen to really let you know what they have in mind.
As a Bahamian you are born into a beautiful country. Your environment may be your greatest asset. Many of you make your living from your local waters. Many of you may do a bit of fishing to put a meal on the table. Some of you may just like to go out and fish for the joy of it.
This could be about to change. A group of fly fishing guides, together with the Ministry of Fisheries, is seeking to regulate exactly who can fish and where. A license would be required for Bahamians to fish on the “flats,” defined to encompass mostly any water that isn’t too deep (less than 6′). It could cost you $100 now to go fishing in water you’ve been able to fish for free since, well, forever. You want your wife to fish too? That’s another $100.
Your birthright, those beautiful Bahamian waters, are going to be held in reserve for those who can pay, mostly Americans and Europeans staying at expensive lodges. This might make the fishing a little bit better, in the same way there might be more American Bison if we didn’t let anyone into Wyoming, but the average Bahamian loses a right to do something you’ve been able to do since there was a Bahamas.
The full regulations are aimed more at foreign anglers than they are at locals who want to go catch a snapper. They are intended to make it harder for certain types of fishermen to choose how they experience the Bahamas. To those fishermen, many of whom have been coming to the Bahamas for years, these efforts seem very uninviting. The easy going nature of the Bahamas is being replaces by something unfriendly. The regulations say “It isn’t enough for you to spend your money in the Bahamas, it has to be with us.”
This is going to result in lost business for the independent guides, for the guest houses and smaller hotels, for the car rentals and boat rentals and little restaurants. Anglers that come with their families and want a relaxing vacation with a couple days of fishing in the mix, those guys are not pleased and may not return.
What it isn’t about
The regulations are not about preserving the fish. Nothing in the regulations does anything to address habitat loss, what is most likely the main threat to bonefish in the Bahamas. When it comes to sustainable fisheries, the issue of illegal fishing by Dominican factory ships is 1,000x more important, and these rules would do nothing to address any of that.
The opposition to the regulations isn’t about having to pay for a license. Anglers would happily pay a license if it were reasonable, easy to obtain and went to support the health of the fishery.
What your visitors are saying
Here are some comments by fisherman. These are just a few. There are many, many more. It is going to be a disaster for the average Bahamian.
Well written article which clearly states the outcome of passing these shortsighted “regulations”. It is abundantly clear to an outsider, the proposed regulations are are power grab attempt by a few. This group hopes to push all anglers into hiring guides, charge exorbitant fees which will enrich their coffers and in general push the DIY anglers out of the Bahamas. There is a distinct xenophobic cast to the whole business.
The fallout from Prescott’s selfie move will be worse, we think than anyone planned. Looking at his now shrunken by 80% BFFIA members, we see some pretty good guys caught up in this mess. Too bad.
I am continued to be amazed/dumbfounded by the lack of foresight by the policy makers in the Bahamas. Sure there will be lots of people that still go and fish via the lodge route. That is what I have done in the past. But I will tell you it is completely off my list for family trips or a buddies DIY trip. AND I live in Florida.
Simply put my wife and I go to the Bahamas every winter for a week or so, she reads and I fish – always catch and careful release.
Last year it was Long Island, during a time of low travelers as the island recovered from the hurricane.
The people we me seemed very glad we were there…
The consequence or mere possiblity of being hassled or worse for wading a flat is too much for me to risk to re-visit the Bahamas.
Frankly the whole thing is in the “hard to believe” colum.
Count me wading somewhere else. Thumbs down!!
What I find funny is the BFFIA wants to be part of the “policing” in all of this. Which you and I know means they will chase and harass any visiting angler that appears to be fishing on their own, even legally, until the BFFIA gets what they want: them to literally leave the water and never return again so that BFFIA and their members have a monopoly on everything.
I think the worst part for me is the ambiguity. I do DIY (mostly on E but was planning a trip to Cat) and I mostly bonefish but I also do blind casting. How is this covered? Definitely will look somewhere else.
Tell Minister Gray and the BFFIA that there is a real cost to their maneuvering and efforts to extract more dollars from traveling anglers – if enough anglers contemplating the Andros trip do as I am doing and stay away, the trip will be cancelled and $40,000 less will flow into the Bahamas this year. It’s too bad, because the pain will be borne most heavily by the lovely family that runs the lodge, not Minister Gray.
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Tags: Bahamas Regulations
Let me cut and paste something I just posted on a different forum:
Regarding enforcement of the issues, here’s how I see things going down:
1) they can’t enforce the regulations they have in place now, they won’t be able to do it then. 2) The true intentions of this draft are not for governmental regulation of the resource, but for one man and whoever he says will have “his authority” to play god as they see fit.
It’s that simple. Call it for what it is. They want the table to be slanted towards them, and to hell with the rest of the people currently in the business who don’t agree with him, or the thousands of Bahamians who benefit from the tourism dollars that Mr. Smith is going to take away from them.
I come to the bahamas for two weeks a year, once or twice. My in laws have a nice place in Marsh Harbor. I am an avid fishermen and since I live on the water in NC, I can fish every day I like (retired). I come to the bahamas to bonefish. I usually get a guide one or two days while I am there and wade fish on my own. I actually enjoy wading more than getting pushed around. I usually only catch and release a few bonefish, as I am not that good with a fly rod.
All of this will change. Our family is now talking about selling the property after they found out about the new bonefish regulations being considered. My guess is that we spend over 100,000 k individually. Another similar amount maintaining the property (which employs local bahamians).
I am also a boat builder. I just completed a boat we were going to bring permanently to the bahamas. That is now out of the question.
Am I missing something here? How is this any different than a fishing license to fish in NJ or Va or most other places in the US.
And why all the focus and attention on P Smith, he is one person as head of BFFIA. The complete answer to the question of the question of which guides support the regulations is not P Smith and a few supporters it is P Smith as Pres of BFFIA who represents nearly 400 dues paying members from Bimini to South Island.
Lastly this is a done deal and a bit late to educate Bahamians on how you see things.
Well done, Bjorn. Beautiful place, lovely people, but man, is the power structure abusive and blind to the visiting fisherman/tourist perspective. It really does its people a disservice.
I normally bonefish the out islands, have always told my family how cool it is, how lovely the locals are and how much they appreciate our business. Alas, when we go together, we have always ended up in Nassau. Our last trip to Nassau was a real disappointment, with money grabs and shady characters everywhere. So no more Nassau trips for the family and now, it seems, no more out islands trips for me or my son, because I am so upset about this short-sighted power grab.