Since late June, when that the Bahamian Department of Marine Fisheries was considering a draconian proposal that would drastically limit or effectively end do-it-yourself (DIY) angling trips and concentrate power and governance over the Bahamas' almost $150 million dollar per year sport fishing industry in the hands of a few select individuals with entrenched personal interests, the assumption has been that — once the light of public opinion shined on what was afoot, once the potential implications of the proposals were well examined and so on — that cooler, sensible heads would prevail and that a small group of individuals wouldn't be permitted to set to work at causing potentially serious damage to the Bahamian fishing tourism industry. Unfortunately, the latest from the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA), a letter to the Department of Marine Fisheries outlining the groups' stance on new regulations, offers little in the way of encouragement.
For those who have only ever cast from a reel, it is the slow learned lesson of calm, measured movement and timing over force, taught by a captain seasoned on the local waters. But for the experienced angler, it is the thrill of bringing the once fresh water sport of fly fishing to the gin clear flats of Abaco in the hunt for redfish, tarpon, bonefish, permit, mangrove or grey snappers, barracuda or lemon sharks. No wonder Bahamas bonefish fly fishing is becoming so popular!
This spring, the Department of Marine Resources set out to draft regulations for recreational fishing linked to a conservation fund, to be adopted under the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act. The Department claims to have consulted with diverse groups for input, one of them being the newly established Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA), a group formed to represent domestic and international angling interests, but which has now been largely disowned by many parties. According to Michael Braynen, Director of the Department, “The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association is a legally constituted body in The Bahamas to represent stakeholders in the fly fishing industry, inclusive of guides and lodge operators. It is not the only stakeholder group.”
These include the Trade Union Congress and the National Congress of Trade Union Bahamas, the two largest umbrella unions in The Bahamas, the Bahamas Bar Association, HeadKnowles, Bahamas International Film Festival, Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, Bahamas Federation of Retailers, ReEarth, Bahamians Against Chinese Fishing, among others.