On a recent beach-combing trip Ministry of the Environment Warden Keith Bishop found a large amount of buoys, ropes, clips, hooks and fishing line washed on beaches in Southern Abaco from long line fishing vessels.
Mr. Bishop, a coastal engineer, said this is nothing new. “Awareness of this issue goes back to the early 90’s when there was a big campaign launched by ReEarth and hundreds of people sat outside parliament with “Don’t Mess With Our Fish” t-shirts on. Eventually the Prime Minister came out and Long Line Fishing was banned.”
He said there has always been long line paraphernalia washing up on coastal beaches, however, the ‘red flag’ has been raise because of the amount found in recent times.
He said while it is uncertain why there has been an increase one of the reasons creates significant concern; that there is an increase in long line activity in Bahamian waters.
“We are often told that they come in at night and deploy their lines – sometimes as much as 12 miles of line – and take their boat out to international waters returning later to collect their lines and catch,” he said.
He said it is unknown where the long line boats come from but it is speculated that they may be of Dominican origin or possibly from another Caribbean country.
Long line fishing, while one of the more lucrative fishing methods is also considered among the most damaging. While the miles long line captures schools of commercially lucrative fish – such as tuna and dolphin (mahi-mahi) – it also captures no marketable and endangered sea life like turtles and porpoises among other which are often killed in the process and wastefully discarded.
Long line fishing is unsustainable and depletes marine resources causing further damage to not just marine environments but to fishermen whose careers are reliant on these fish stocks.
Mr. Bishop said this has to be a concern for us. “The marine environment supports a large number of Bahamians in fishing and the sports fishing industry.”
“What is the answer for us? We know the Royal Bahamas Defense Force is stretched to their limits and the Department of Marine Resources don’t have the resources needed to tackle it,” he said.