For the sake of clarity, let’s refer to our crawfish by calling it a lobster. The season for capturing our lobster is closed from April 1st through July 31st, and will be opening on Sunday, with numerous fishermen, residents and others venturing out to capture some luscious lobsters for their use.
The commercial fishermen will be leaving their home ports by Friday, to act as sentries to ensure that no one interferes with their traps on the eve of the opening.
However, harvesting of lobsters has not ceased, as there are unscrupulous fishermen who continue to capture lobsters to sell to restaurants and others. So far this year, we know of two seizures of illegal lobsters on Grand Bahama, one with two hundred and five pounds, and another of seventy pounds. We have not heard what penalties were inflicted on them. Was it, or will it be just a slap on the wrist, or will the fisheries rules be utilised? Imagine how many other illicit harvests take place without the culprits being caught? There must be several of these each week on the whole island of Grand Bahama. I am sure that this goes on at all of our other islands.
All restaurants have lobster on their menus, or could arrange to serve it, if requested. This is very wrong: We need our Fisheries Officers and our Police to become very active in stopping the harvesting of our lobsters during the closed season, but it will continue until our Fisheries Department “bites the bullet” and says that lobster will not be served during the closed season. Our commercial fish exporters should support this 100 per cent; as they are trying to receive prestigious international certifications such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, an ecolabel for sustainable seafood products being marketed across the globe, which would enable them to export to the EU and elsewhere in the world. But one of the requirements is that we keep our Marine Resources in check to ensure sustainability. This cannot be done while the year round harvesting of our lobsters continues.
The only way to reduce the closed season harvesting which goes on is to reduce the market by not allowing the sale of lobsters in restaurants during the closed season. Any lobster left in the restaurants at the close of business on March 31st, should be left in the deep freeze until August 1st. It is imperative that this be ordered by our Government’s Fisheries Department, and I ask Minister Cartwright to get such law passed by our Cabinet as soon as possible so that we may be able to have a sustainable lobster fishery, and get the necessary certification needed to help our exporters.
Friends of the Environment, the, Bahamas Marine Exporters Association, the Bahamas National Trust, all commercial fishermen wishing to export to the EU and elsewhere, together with other interested persons should jump on the bandwagon and insist that Government pass that legislation to be effective before April 1, 2011. Let us not push this aside! Start pushing for this to happen, and it will.
Yours for a sustainable fishery.
Harold “Sonny” Waugh