As the opening of crawfish looms just weeks away, Abaco craw-fishermen are concerned that laws regarding compressors may be “strictly enforced” in the coming season and present undue challenges on the industry.
The concerns were raised after two Bahamian vessels were apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and Bimini police after officers found crew members with undersized crawfish. Officers also found aboard one boat undersized conch, crawfish, and found that they were illegally using a compressor to fish.
According to fishing regulations only Bahamians are allowed to spear fish with a compressor and only from August 1 to March 31 and within 30 to 60 feet of water. The depth is where the issue arises for fishermen.
Across the country fishermen have for some time been calling for an adjustment or elimination of the restriction of using a compressor in 30 to 60 feet of water only. One local fishermen noted that at least 90 percent of traps are located on the Little Bahama Bank and Great Bahama Bank and that water in these areas are seldom 30 feet deep and most are about 20 feet deep.
Despite regulations stating that the legally acceptable depth is 30 to 60 feet deep there has been basically no enforcement on this regulation because it was understood by authorities that many condos are in these locations and fishermen are depending on these for their livelihood.
Assistant Fisheries Superintendent, Wayne Cornish said that these laws are on the books and fishermen are encouraged to abide by the fisheries regulations or face being prosecuted.
Another local fisherman expressed concern that, should Fisheries and RBDF officers pursue enforcement of this regulation, it could shut the season down and hurt many families and businesses.
And while fishermen understand that they are operating outside the fisheries regulated depth, they have operated this way for many years with an understanding that authorities had relaxed enforcement of the depth.
This charge against a boat captain for using a compressor illegally, it is felt, is setting a precedent and fishermen are unsure what this will mean for them when fishing their condos on the Bahama Banks.
A local fishermen noted that the industry already is facing pressures from lionfish, poaching and the lethal (to lobsters) PaV1 virus; now having to be concerned and possibly arrested for fishing traps they have fished for years with compressors.
They feel the pressures against the industry may finally prove too much to bear.