Foreigner fishing ban proposed
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
THE government is considering amending the law so that foreigners who marry Bahamians will be excluded from the fishing industry.
Dozens of local fishermen gathered at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Hamilton's, Long Island on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and other government officials, including Defence Force Commodore Roderick Bowe, to voice concerns over threats to the fishing industry, the backbone of the island's economy.
With Dominicans poaching in Bahamian waters singled out as the main issue affecting fishermen, Prime Minister Ingraham said there are two contributing factors that need to be dealt with - foreigners obtaining work permits to fish, and foreigners who marry Bahamians "for convenience" and are able to gain spousal permits.
"There are some things we can do to make life better for you as fishermen to reduce the number of non-Bahamians who are on boats," he said.
The first issue has already been addressed with immigration officials being given clear policy guidelines about the granting of work permits for non-Bahamians working on Bahamian fishing boats, Mr Ingraham said. He added that the second issue is more problematic.
Mr Ingraham suggested putting limitations on spousal work permits could be an option.
He said: "It may be possible for the government to say the right to work does not include the right to fish."
While it could be a good move going forward, Mr Ingraham said it would be difficult to take away from the right from those who already enjoy it.
During the town meeting, fishermen also requested increased policing and surveillance of Bahamian waters by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
The Defence Force will increase its presence in the area with a new base in Ragged Island and 10 more boats added to the fleet, Mr Ingraham said.
He added that the force was "neglected" under the previous government.
According to Mr Ingraham, a five year plan is being put together that will facilitate increased access to equipment and boats, and more substations.
"We sought to catch up over the last four years or so. We have a long way to go, we are putting together a plan to equip the Defence force fully beginning the year 2014," said Mr Ingraham.
Fisherman Keith Carroll said he thought the meeting went well and some good ideas were put forward.
Noting that fishermen have been dealing with the poaching problem for more than 20 years, Mr Carroll said the problem has recently become increasingly worse and disrupts the economy of the entire island.
March 12, 2012