Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard defended the Fisheries Bill that passed in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. Pintard appeared on Beyond the Headlines hosted by Clint Watson the next day, expressing disappointment in parliamentarians who referred to a clause in the bill as “discriminatory.”
But the agriculture and marine resources minister received support from local fishermen and organizations like The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance who called the new legislature “progressive.” And The National Fisheries Association added that the bill is “comprehensive” and “put[s] Bahamians first.”
Why it matters
Local fishermen have long complained that foreign fishermen poach in Bahamian waters, depleting their catch while negatively affecting their livelihood. Reports show that many foreign fishermen from the Dominican Republic marry Bahamian women for work permits to be able to fish in Bahamian waters.
What the Fisheries Bill actually says
The Fisheries Bill 2020 regulates the fishing industry and prevents non- Bahamians from commercial fishing in Bahamian waters.
The clause in the bill that was criticized says, “No person shall engage in fishing or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel for fishing other than sport fishing in the fisheries waters; and use or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel licensed under this act for fishing other than charter sport fishing unless that person is a citizen of the Bahamas.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest called the clause discriminatory
Peter Turnquest stood to his feet to ask, “Does that mean that spousal permit holders and permanent residents are likewise excluded from being able to fish? And if that is, in fact, the case, how do we square that with the constitution and general human rights? Because I would think that any spouse of a Bahamian should have the right to support their family in whatever their skill is and I think it’s a slippery slope because if you start with fishing, then is the hotel industry next?
“We do not want to continue to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Bahamian women in particular because let’s face it, that’s what we’re talking about.”
How Michael Pintard responded
- “I am disappointed in some of the comments I have heard from policymakers who would represent a fishing community that requires assistance. We have one of the lowest subsidy packages for fishers. When I go into the parliament, I am fighting for those communities that I represent to make sure I give them the best possible chance of succeeding,” he said.
- “While I will highlight like any other socially conscious Bahamian would, any adequacy in the bill, a disproportionate amount of my time will be spent fighting for those men and women who are in a country right now where thirty plus percent of the people are unemployed and need opportunities. I signed up to be a part of exploding opportunities for them as opposed to putting a damper on what we’re seeking to do in abroad way to make sure the Bahamas can take advantage of the resources that we have,” Pintard said.