This is a little disconcerting. What do you think?
In November, The Bahamian government announced it is considering a joint venture that would grant Chinese commercial fishing vessels licenses to fish Bahamian waters.
A public firestorm erupted when this proposal first became known shortly after the passage of Hurricane Matthew in early October. Since then, the government has vigorously backpedaled and downplayed the deal. Initially he called the news reports “utterly false” and then said he had authorized a discussion, but there was nothing before the cabinet for approval. However, in November he suggested the proposal was still on the table and hoped the Chinese would not be deterred by widespread public criticism.
The proposal seems to indicate that rights would be considered to catch migratory fish in Bahamian waters (species were not specified). Although these are not traditionally exploited by Bahamians, they are an important resource for tourism.
The Chinese fishing proposal is being discussed in China despite this underestimated long-term pressure on Bahamian marine resources. The Bahamas National Trust has said in a public statement on this proposal (November 5, 2016) that local fisheries were already under pressure, and noted that Chinese fishing fleets threaten the sustainability of global fisheries. The BNT said scientific assessments of pelagic fish stocks would be required before any informed discussion about a possible expansion of the fishery sector can take place.
The Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation said the proposal prioritized short-term foreign goals over long-term Bahamian economic, social and environmental sustainability, and would undermine national sovereignty. “(We) put great effort into protecting our marine resources for the benefit of current and future Bahamians through regulations, marine protected areas, and by reserving this industry for Bahamians only. This proposed initiative would be a major leap backwards.”
Marine biologists at the University of the Bahamas said inadequate legislation and lack of enforcement made it “hard to imagine” that commercial fishing on such a scale would abide by any prudent catch limits. Lisa Benjamin and Dr. Adelle Thomas of the university’s Climate Change Initiative said The Bahamas could join the “long list of failed fisheries sectors” in the Caribbean “well within a ten-year period."
The opposition Free National Movement has condemned what it calls a ”secret deal” to give fishing rights and public land to the Chinese and has demanded that Minister Gray step down for his lack of transparency.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has so far avoided speaking directly to the proposal.
Tourist demand for local fish (through recreational fishing and hotel restaurants) from 1950 through 2010 accounted for 75% of reconstructed total catches. Almost two-thirds of this demand was driven by recreational fishing by stopover visitors, and the remainder was a result of seafood consumption by both stopover and cruise visitors.