Just 48 hours ago Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Leslie Miller, announced that the controversial move was made in a bid to replenish the country’s grouper stock. Since its inception the Nassau grouper ban has generally lasted only two months, but this year officials have lengthened the period to three and in some areas four months.
The Guardian visited some of the fishing vendors yesterday. Many expressed concern over the extended ban. “I guess what I have to do now is to make whatever I can selling the groupers before the ban kicks in,” said Brain Bain, a young fisherman.
“The government has to do what it must to make sure these fish stay around for the next couple of years but I [will not] lie it’s going to put a serious dent in my pockets,” he added. According to the young fisherman his daily Nassau grouper sales can average anywhere from $300 to $500 a day. For this reason many other fishermen insisted that the three-month ban will have a “significant impact” on their businesses.
“The fact that they now having the ban for three months is a real shock,” said Hezekiah Miller. “Business barely could have survived when we had the two month ban. Now they’re making it even longer. How are we supposed to make it.”
Another fisherman, who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, noted that the ban runs through the popular for grouper sales.
“Christmas time is when people want their grouper,” said the fishing veteran. “This is the time when we make most of our money. I am not saying that the government should not place the ban, but it is going to hurt us a lot.”
Still, Agriculture and Fisheries officials insist that they had expected negative feedback for their decision to extend the ban. Minister Miller told the press, “We expect some backlash from the fishermen who are going to raise eternal hell that we are trying to run them out of business or we are trying to keep food off their table. This is the normal cry in trying to save any species in this country or most other places in this world.”
Minister Miller added that his Ministry will be enforcing new strategies this year to ensure that the ban is being followed. “In an effort to ensure that the Nassau Grouper is not being harvested – or sold – during the proposed closed season, Fisheries regulations will be amended to make it mandatory that if it is harvested it must be landed with head, tail and skin intact,” he explained. “This would enable fisheries inspectors to be able to identify the grouper species that is being landed.”
But while Gilford Lloyd, chief enforcement officer at the Fisheries Department admitted that enforcing the ban will be a challenge, he insisted that it will take a multi-agency effort by local authorities.
“In terms of our strategy for the enforcement of the Nassau grouper ban, it has always been a challenge to stop or prevent local fishers from catching the species,” said Mr Lloyd.
By JASMIN BONIMY Guardian Staff Reporter