By NATARIO McKENZIE
#Tribune Business Reporter
The Department of Marine Resources’ director yesterday said it has been “pretty much determined” that persons will require licenses for fly fishing in the Bahamas, with the fee varying according to duration.
Michael Braynen told the Abaco Business Outlook conference that the fees collected from these licenses will go directly towards conservation, research and enforcement activities related to the habitats that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.
“Our Ministry recognises, and I think the Government recognises, that the flats fishing industry is an important part of the tourism product of the Bahamas, and the persons engaged in this fishing activity are almost exclusively visitors to the Bahamas who pursue their fishing passion in locations throughout the country,” he said.
“Most of these locations are outside New Providence. These persons use a variety of accommodations throughout the Bahamas – from fishing lodges, hotels, big hotels, small hotels and rental homes. Many of them engage the services of fishing guides but all of them do not do this.”
Mr Braynen added: “With respect to licenses, it has pretty much been determined that there will be licenses for people to engage in fly fishing in the Bahamas.
“At present, one does not need to have a personal license to engage in this type of activity, and this will in all likelihood change. Certainly my department is recommending that it change. Everyone engaged in fly fishing will have to get a license.
“The license will be made available online, and persons arriving in the Bahamas and deciding they want one should be able to get it from border control officials,” he said.
“The fee would vary depending on the duration of the license. We would expect licenses to be issued for a day, a week, a month, six months or a year, whatever is applicable.
“We would not expect children under 12 to have to pay for a license. We would expect that fees collected from the license will be used directly for conservation, research and enforcement activities that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.”
Mr Braynen said the issue of do-it-yourself (DIY) fly fishing has been a point of controversy in the consultation over the proposed regulations to govern the industry.
“In what was put out it was contemplated that persons would have to be accompanied by a fishing guide, and this is what caused a lot of controversy,”he acknowledged.
“The feedback from visitors and stakeholders has clearly indicated that persons fishing without guides form a significant portion of the sector, and many persons routinely use a guide for portions of their visit and to fish without guides for the remainder.
“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.”
Mr Braynen said it was anticipated that professional fishing guides will be licensed in the Bahamas. “The intent is to establish a process that will license persons to be professional fishing guides, with requirements set so that persons employing professional guides could be assured that the guide has the requisite training, knowledge and skills, and will provide the required services,” he added.
Commenting on concerns expressed about the treatment of permanent residents under the proposed legislation, Mr Braynen said: “The point is that people who are permanent residents in the Bahamas enjoy, under the sports fishing rules, the same rights and privileges as a citizen of the Bahamas. We would expect the same to apply with regards to flat fishing.
“Another issue was second home owners being used to accommodate persons coming in for flat fishing and other purposes. The position is that the whole issue of governing how second home owners use their properties and residences, sometimes as a business operation, is governed by another part of the Government, not the Department of Marine Resources.”
Mr Braynen aadded: “Another point of great controversy has to do with the mother ship operations. These are operations based outside of the Bahamas where persons come in on vessels, and where they might engage in flats fishing and travel throughout the Bahamas, having no fixed location.
“These boats that are coming in this way are operating under rules established by the Port Department. Dealing with those who are not operating within the rules will fall to the Department and it is not an activity we are going to attempt to regulate. That is going to be dealt with elsewhere.”