Open letter on the Bahamas Regulations

salmon 6

Thought I would take the opportunity to post a copy of an Open Letter penned by Prescott Smith in regards to the announcement made last week in Orlando by the Bahamian government.

There is no need for me to comment.  The letter speaks for itself.

“Dear Prime Minister, Minister Gray and other Cabinet Ministers,

The only thing I have left to give this country is MY LIFE. As I sit here in Colorado, returning home sometime this evening, I have been bombarded from Fly Fishing Guides all around The Bahamas who are screaming about a press Conference held in Orlando at the world’s largest Sportfishing show. THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, I came to The Cabinet of the same PLP Government to get basic legislation done to protect the LARGEST FLATS ON EARTH in the interest of BAHAMIANS and to legitimize the Guiding profession.

Minister Gray, it is a total insult for your PS to be doing a press Conference side by side with The Out Island Promotion Board. The same Minister of Tourism, who has shown ZERO Support 13 years ago for Legislation in the interest of Bahamians, is the same Minister of Tourism who has fought us today every step of the way.

As President of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, I will not be a part of any such Legislation that SELLS out Bahamian interest and GIVES control of our resources to foreign interest and special interest. ALL present promotion Boards of Tourism have fought us every step of the way trying to block this Legislation. They are totally Controlled by special interest and foreign interest who see Bahamians as playing a token role in our number ONE INDUSTRY. BFFIA is the first and only Association in the Country where the Board is controlled and made up of Bahamians who look like the majority of the citizens of The Bahamas. Ironically, it is the only such association that gets zero SUPPORT from our PLP Minister of Tourism and our Ministry of Tourism in general, which claims to put Bahamians first.

Further, this is not a threat, although you may see it as one. In light of these developments, I am prepared to Resign publicly and let The Bahamian people know that after 23 years and going through 7 Ministers of Tourism, we are still struggling in OUR COUNTRY to get through the many GLASS CEILINGS that exist for OUR PEOPLE with respect to real economic empowering opportunities. We pander too much to the special and foreign interests, as if we are like little children who are afraid to cut our own path in life.

My Return home today will be met by hundreds of Guides from Inagua to Grand Bahama who are questioning whether the Government, which was the same with successive Administrations, truly has their best interests at heart.

As you can see, I have attached a fishing license from Colorado, which cost me 14 dollars for a one day license and raises a serious question. Why is our Government telling the world that we will charge 20 dollars a week to fish the best flats in the world? Again the special interests, who totally control our Ministry of Tourism, is advising The Bahamas Government, because we lack the much needed confidence in our own.

[Bjorn – a comment – I see a CO week license at $21, according to their website. A day is $9. So, even the stuff it would be easy to get right, he gets wrong.]

Minister Wilchombe, I have been in Andros now for 23 years, which as you know is the largest island in The Bahamas. It follows, therefore, that I have NEVER seen The Ministry of Tourism hold a single meeting collectively with regards to addressing Tourism on Andros. Even though we have the most Guides in The Country, we have one Family that came from Canada dictating to your Ministry what should happen in Tourism on Andros. They have now been joined by a token black Member of that Board who is prepared to sell her Country and her Soul to the special and foreign interests for pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits no doubt. Is it any wonder that we are no longer number one in the Caribbean the way we run Tourism in our Country? You have not even shown the common courtesy of acknowledging a single communication from The Board of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, while publicly claiming to put Bahamians FIRST.

Also Cabinet Ministers, you need to know that such persons, like Perk Perkins from Orvis, Ian Davis from Yellowdog Fly fishing, Oliver White the front for Abaco Lodge and Bairs Lodge, are some of the many special interests behind the scenes advising our Ministry of Tourism. Jim Klug, who is part owner of Yellowdog, is also on the Board of The American Fly Fishing Trade Association. It was, therefore, no surprise that they all sat in the room in Orlando yesterday.

Finally Mr. Prime Minister, you had the courage to put this vital piece of Legislation on the agenda to move it forward and, Minister Gray, you have had the courage to lead this important Legislation when our Minister of Tourism fought us every step of the way. So that you are aware, I got instructions from The Father of our nation, as he sat in a van in Staniard Creek and shared with me his vision for Bahamians and The Bahamas. All his books I have read and are in my possession! While he began the journey that led initially to our political independence, he acknowledged that the next step in our journey was and remains economic independence. “

Flyfishing for bonefish is my passion. Over the last twenty years I've waded flats throughout the world and honestly can't wait to see the next one. Of the 3-4 months I spend in the tropics each year I divide my fishing time between lodges, independent guides and self-guided.
  1. Kevin Becker Reply

    Yes, I had read this letter last week and this is what gave me real hope that the Bahamas is taking the right steps with regard to Bonefishing regulations. 😀👍😀👍

    • Phil Vieth Reply

      Did you go to G. Bahama last winter. Any problems? Are you going this winter. Will the license program be in place for this winter??
      Im turned off by all of it especially Andros. While it has some great flats that can be accessed by car and great fishing I am skeptical of going back there. Most of the lodges are to the south and they go mostly to the west side of the island which is inaccessable by car but still it is an erie feeling to have this conflict centered from Andros.

  2. Frank Reply

    Strange letter. More to follow I’m sure. Guess DIY’s might want to stay off Andros? Tough to fight locals.

    Re: Colorado, I think a non-resident 1-day license is $9. But there is also a conservation surcharge of $10 added to all licenses. Still doesn’t add up.

  3. Gregory Gimbel Reply

    I can only hope that Prescot is not speaking for the majority of Bahamians. If so, the newly announced regulations will not be very helpful as it really won’t be safe or enjoyable to fish there anyways.

    • cassar Reply

      Most of the animosity towards foreign and DIY fisherman is coming from Andros and I personall will never go back there. If you are concerned about your safety, go to one of the other out idlands. There are many other beautiful out islands with friendly welcoming people. Pick the right island and enjoy !

  4. michael Reply

    Exuma is the same, it’s all about greed.

  5. Steve Shirley Reply

    Wow. It looks like the new law will be in our favor but that local hostility towards DIY fishing remains. Now what to do for my vaca next winter???

    • Rod Hamilton Reply

      Hey Steve, thanks for taking the time to comment. Let’s not rush to judgement yet on how the DIY fisher is going to be received. If in fact the regulations go through as proposed, including a fishing license, we need to if that changes the behaviour of certain individuals who were to blame for the mischieve and animosity toward DIY anglers. No one has dealt with it or faced it more then I and yet there is a part of me that thinks over time this will have a calming effect. In most instances there was always an angle put forward by those that “got in my face” that it was illegal for me and others to be fishing on our own. “You need a guide to fish in the Bahamas.” That argument (though never true) was their belief. We can all agree that at least that argument is gone. Now we need to see if there is a subtle resignation to the fact if we buy a license we have the right to fish. Does that mean my tires won’t be slashed again? Time will tell. Let’s give it a chance.

  6. Steve Shirley Reply

    Thanks so much Rod for the additional information. As we have considered going back to Long Island, where some of the board members from the BFFIA reside, I have been torn on what to do. We loved it there last visit but the last time had a guide for 4 days for all of my fishing. It was awesome and I learned a lot. Now I am a bit more skilled on the art and would do more fishing on my own. A local boy went for a week several years ago and had no problems so I think I would be OK. Holding opinion until we see how this unfolds seems reasonable but I can guarantee you that if any %^\>%# slashes my tires there will be some difficulties! But I agree, let us see what happens.

  7. Dave Eaton Reply

    I can see by Prescott Smith’s continued posturing & idle threat to tender his “public resignation” that this issue will continue to smolder. for years to come. It’s great to see that the Bahamian government have taken a more reasonable approach than that currently advocated by the BFFIA, and as a direct result of the government’s decision I will be returning with a group of friends to fish the flats of the Bahamas in the spring of 2017. However, I do agree with the BFFIA that Bahamians should be the ones to benefit most from their own natural resources. In fact I believe this is essential if the beautiful flats and fisheries of the Bahamas are to be valued by its people and protected and preserved for the future.
    Perhaps under new (representative) leadership the BFFIA would adopt more reasonable policies designed to promote preservation, conservation and an improvement of standards within their own industry, rather than their current shortsighted political rhetoric, which appears to primarily fueled by greed and a lust for personal power.

  8. Shawn T Reply

    Just found an article on the new license system being implemented on Jan 9 2017.

    http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/ministry_of_tourism_updates/Bahamas_Moves_to_Protect_Fly_Fishing_Industry51928.shtml

    Facts from the article (in case it goes off line):
    —-
    The regulations will require anglers above the age of 12, who wish to fish in the flats, to apply for a personal angler’s license and pay a prescribed fee. Non-citizens must pay $15 for a day license, $20 for a weekly license, $30 for a monthly license and $60 for an annual license.

    The regulations will also require a foreign vessel wishing to fish in the flats to obtain the usual sports fishing permit and each person on the vessel intending to flats fish to hold a personal license.

    The regulations also ban commercial fishing in the flats. Anglers are only allowed to catch and release when catching bonefish, permit, snook, cobia and tarpon.

    The new law will also establish a Conservation Fund for the management and protection of the flats and fisheries resources in The Bahamas.
    —-

    Not clear where the license is to be purchased.
    UPDATE: I have sent an email with the where question to fisheries@bahamas.gov.bs Will post back any reply I get.

    • Rod Hamilton Reply

      Thanks Shawn. I will put out what I hope is the last article on the Bahamian regulations in Monday’s newsletter. But we all know it won’t be the last one. What you have said in your comment is correct. The regs go into effect Jan 9th, a license is required. The interesting part is, to the best of my knowledge there is no actual way to purchase a license that is simple and realistic. You arrive on an out island in the Bahamas and are set to fish for the next seven days. I have no idea where or how you get a license. I have no idea who enforces the regulations. I do however clearly see the legislated penalties if caught without a license. You will note that DIY fishermen escaped the wrath of the gov. regs and those who initially put forth “Drafts”. That was a hard fought battle, believe me. You can still walk and wade on your own anywhere you like.

  9. Shawn T Reply

    Here’s the response (they were prompt):

    Efforts are currently being made to enable one to obtain a licence on line. While this is taking place, a licence may be obtained from Bahamas Customs officials when entering the country or from the local Department of Marine Resources’ office and/or the Administrator’s office in Grand Bahama.

    Please let us know if you require additional information.

    Department of Marine Resources
    P. O. Box N-3028
    Nassau, Bahamas
    Tel 242-393-1777


    For clarity, Grand Bahama was mentioned as it was part of my inquiry for up coming trips.

  10. Shawn T Reply

    Another article published in the same paper.
    http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/bis-news-updates/The_Bahamas_Regulates_Fly_Fishing_Industry51957.shtml

    Correction of note from the previous article — daily fees are $5.00 not $15.00

  11. Jo-Ann L Reply

    Hi there just some information to pass along. My husband and I are on Long Island and inquired about licensing. Currently as a diy You can only buy your license at the “Fisheries” Office (1-242-338-0111) in Salt Pond. It’s the small grey building on left hand side going north and located right beside the yellow “tourism” office. The rates were as posted $20 per week, $30 for month. Stephanie Cartwright is currently the only personnel to both distribute licenses and fine anyone….of which we were given the impression she is concerned about being totally available to visiting fisherman to ensure they can get a licence. Apparently Guides have called in to report people with no licence but they cannot and will not be in charge of distributing any fines. She emphasized it was all about making sure that travellers needs are met by being able to access getting their appropriate licences. We had no issues, and after everything proposed certainly don’t have any issues with the current legislation and think dues are comparatively appropriate…hoping the monies do go back into teaching local Bahamians to become guides and help educate preservation.

  12. Jo-Ann L Reply

    Hi there just some information to pass along. My husband and I are on Long Island and inquired about licensing. Currently as a diy You can only buy your license at the “Fisheries” Office (1-242-338-0111) in Salt Pond. It’s the small grey building on left hand side going north and located right beside the yellow “tourism” office. The rates were as stated in forms we downloaded prior to our trip at $20 per week, $30 for month. Stephanie Cartwright is currently the only personnel to both distribute licenses and fine anyone….of which we were given the impression she is more concerned about being totally available to visiting fisherman to ensure they can get a licence. Apparently Guides have called in to report people with no licence but they cannot and will not be in charge of distributing any fines. She was very kind and relayed she thought it was her role to ensure that travellers needs are met by being able to access getting their appropriate licences when they arrive. We experienced no challenges on LI and after everything proposed certainly don’t have any issues with the current legislation and think dues are comparatively appropriate…hoping the monies do go back into teaching local Bahamians to become guides and help educate preservation.

    • Rod Hamilton Reply

      thanks for the update, good to hear that the licensing system seems to be working. Stephanie is a nice lady and sounds like she has it figured out. Let me know how the fishing is…..

Leave a Reply