By Royston Jones Jr.
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Dominican Republic has pledged to take steps to hopefully drastically reduce Dominican poaching in Bahamian waters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said on Tuesday.
Mitchell, who was part of a recent delegation to the Dominican Republic, said he believed the trip was “quite successful”, having met with the trade council, which reports to the president of the Dominican Republic, and officials from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fisheries and Navy.
“The government there indicated that [it intends] to take measures to try and stop it, and promised that there would be a drastic drop off in the incursion from their country,” said Mitchell.
“There is an operational visit coming up in just a couple of weeks where their naval forces [will be sent] to The Bahamas to speak with our Royal Bahamas Defence Force and we’ll take it from there.
“There are some things we have to do in terms of changes to the law and the investment in equipment, both of which we pledged to do. The equipment in fact has been ordered, and so we must trust, but verify.”
Poaching in Bahamian waters, predominantly by Dominicans, has been a long-standing issue for local fishermen.
In July, the issue came into focus again, when several Bahamian fishermen stepped forward and shared their stories of Dominican poaching vessels operating near the Cay Sal Bank.
More than two months ago, Mitchell announced to parliamentarians that the government banned permits to non-Bahamian fishermen.
The Christie administration has announced other measures in a bid to curb poaching by foreign fishermen in Bahamian waters, including increasing the Defence Force’s manpower and a $200 million asset acquisition and technical training initiative.
The government’s efforts in this area have garnered praise from the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA).
However, Adrian Laroda, president of BCFA, said on Tuesday that he is not convinced that the government of the Dominican Republic has the desire to see an end to poaching.
Laroda said the Dominican government’s commitment would be made abundantly clear if it were to enact stricter poaching and seafood importation laws.
“Like a lot of [developing] countries, unemployment in the Dominican Republic is very high. They have drastically overfished their waters [and] there are products they cannot get in their waters, but they still have to supply the demand for seafood products,” he said.
“While the Dominican government may pledge to do something about poaching, tourism drives their economy just as much as it drives ours.
“If you have people supplying a product for your tourism sector, which is driving your economy, you’re not going to try to turn off that source. They are not going to be prepared to do that.”
The delegation, which returned from Santo Domingo last Thursday, also included Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage and Marine Resources and Local Government Minister Alfred Gray.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian