Bahamas Bonefishing Regulations Update

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

Take A Deep Breath! It’s Gonna Be Ok!

The conference room just outside of the walls of ICAST and IFTD is buzzing with chatter and anticipation of the coming announcement to be made by Rena Glinton, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries of the Bahamas. Over the past several months, numerous guides, lodges, members of the press, conservationist groups, and the everyday angler have been hearing, reading, writing, and talking about several newly proposed regulations that have been tossed around. While some of these suggested regulations have been sensible, there were some circulating that seemed downright detrimental to those that depend on fishing within Bahamaian waters. Talk of outlawing DIY anglers, removing non-Bahamian owned lodges, and only allowing native Bahamians to guide clients are just examples of some of the ideas that have come down the pipe. To say the least, this has had the fly angling world up at arms trying to make sense of it all.

As Ms. Glinton began to speak, the room fell silent and all eyes were forward. I’ve never seen a more attentive group listening to someone speak, few only glancing away for a second or two in order to jot down a note. A presidential candidate could only hope for such a fascinated group. Taking about ten minutes of her time, she explained the newly proposed version of fishing regulations that would, as is turns out, be the last version. These regulations would be the set that went into law at some date down the road. No more revisions. These rules are what will govern the fishing on the Bahamian flats.

As she began to read through the new set of regulations, I was equally pleased with what I heard, as well as what I didn’t hear.

DSC_3006Past ideas pertaining to abolishing DIY and foreign owned lodges were nowhere in her announcement. The regulations that were presented seemed fair and could certainly have an immediate, positive impact on the fisheries. License fees were very reasonable. She even explained they were using Florida’s fishing license program as a model for their own. Multiple agencies and groups would be involved in developing a certification process for guides operating in the Bahamas, and would require all guides to complete the process prior to working with clients. There were still plenty of questions once she had concluded her announcement, however much of them just involved a little more information or elaboration on a couple of the regulations by Ms. Glinton.

Overall, everyone seemed pleased (and relieved) that these regulations seemed to be more focused on improving the conservation of the fisheries by providing a positive economic impact. I was able to talk in brief with Oliver White (Abaco Lodge) who seemed pleased with the new regulations. He spoke of it as a “great win” and surely a step in the right direction. No doubt, lodge owners’ fears of losing clients and business had gained some relief. Justin Lewis, Bahamas Initiative Manager of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, was also very pleased with the results and the funds that would be funneled into conservation efforts. I think we all wanted a little more explanation about the guide certification program, but the way I understood it, there wasn’t much information to give because the program hadn’t yet been fully developed and is likely only a concept at this time.

Here’s a list of the points that were made during the announcement by Rena Glinton:

  • Licenses – $15/day, $20/wk, $30/month, $60yr; Money received from the sale of licenses would be split. The platform from which anglers will purchase licenses will be online. They are using Florida’s license purchasing program as their model.
  • Where’s your money going? – 50% of funds from license sales would be placed into an account to recoup administrative and operating costs. The other half would be placed in a separate account to fund studies and other conservation projects.
  • Enforcement – Plans are to hire officers to patrol and enforce these regulations. The plan is to have at least 2-3 officers on each island.
  • Guides – Must complete the certification process in order to legally work. This certification process will be determined by multiple governing bodies. There will also be a fee for the certification process that will go into same fund accounts as money from license sales. Guides who have worked for ten or more years as a guide will have an additional year to complete the guide certification process.
  • DIY Fishing – As long as you have a license, you may fish! As of right now, there is no plan to close any flats or areas to DIY fishing.
  • Hiring a guide – Boats that have two (or more) people fishing on board will require a hired, certified guide. We asked for clarification and gave several scenarios as examples to put into question and get feedback. As we were told by Ms. Glinton, “it’s all about how many people are actually fishing”. It’s a little tricky in my opinion. If I had 4 people on a boat without a guide, I’d make sure there was only one rod. One angler and a person on the poling platform was perfectly acceptable per Ms. Glinton.
  • Catch and Release – For anyone visiting the Bahamas, Bonefish are strictly catch and release. Resident Bahamians will still be allowed to harvest one bonefish (which is usually done in celebration of Christmas and cooked for a family dinner).

I was really pleased with the announcement made by Rena Glinton, as was everyone else present in the room. What started as a room filled with anxieties and straight faces, turned quickly into a room of smiles and positive conversation. It was uncertain when exactly these regulations would go into effect, and per Ms. Glinton, that decision would not be made until the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries had all of their ducks in a row. The Bahamas has surely stepped in and done the right thing, ensuring a bright future for the bonefish flats that we all love. So, no worries when booking that next bonefishing trip!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Bahamas Bonefishing Regulations Update

  1. This is a positive step for the Bahamas in an economical and fishery conservation standpoint. I’m very pleased with the outcome of this as I was pretty concerned last year when I had initially heard about the proposals put forward by some guides down in Andros…

  2. There was a relatively involved, motivated audience during time the new regulations were being drafted – the majority of which presented opinions contrary to the proposed regulations, predicting plenty of negative consequences. It appears the Ministers and their staffs have listened and modified the regulations accordingly.

    It is just as important now for that same involved, motivated audience to send positive responses to Secretary Glinton and her staffs, complimenting them and thanking them for developing pragmatic, common-sense regulations that will go a long way to protecting the flats fishing industry in the Bahamas.

    Thank you Secretary Glinton, your staff and any others who participated in developing these new regs.

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