By Royston Jones Jr.
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell and a local delegation began talks with Dominican Republic government officials on Monday, in a bid to stem the longstanding problem of illegal fishing in Bahamian waters by Dominican fishermen.
The talks, which are being held in Santo Domingo, will also focus on illegal migration, trade relations, agricultural imports, medical products and tourism investment, The Nassau Guardian understands. Mitchell’s delegation is expected to wrap up discussions and return on Thursday.
The minister recently said while the government wants the cooperation of the Dominican Republic to bring illegal fishing to a halt, if talks fail the government is prepared to implement more stringent measures to keep Dominican poachers out of Bahamian waters.
Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage announced a $200 million asset acquisition and technical training initiative to strengthen the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to better control the country’s borders. He also announced plans to increase the manpower of the defence force by 140 recruits in this fiscal year.
However, in recent months the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) has suggested the talks planned between the two sides are a waste of time.
BCFA secretary and head of public relations Adrian LaRoda said on Monday that the alliance welcomes any efforts that will lead to productive results, but added it is unlikely the talks will cause Dominican and other foreign fishermen to refrain from the illegal activity.
On the eve of the delegation’s trip, Mitchell said the government has a responsibility to protect The Bahamas’ borders and economy from illegal activity and must “forcefully make our position known”.
“We must live peacefully with our neighbors and therefore all conflicts must be addressed through diplomatic means, but we must forcefully make our position known on these matters,” he said in a statement released on Sunday.
“That is what responsible governments do. It is instructive to also take note of the concrete steps the government is taking to increase the capacity of its relevant agencies to better deal with these vexing problems.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian