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Old 07-25-2011, 10:37 AM
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Default Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

A recent article in Grand Bahamian newspaper The Freeport News addresses the issue of illegal bonefish activity.

By Nathaniel Lewis

There has been a recent series of complaints to police officials over the illegal harvesting and sale of bonefish, which is beginning to concern both sports fisherman and residents alike.

Local bonefisherman of 25 years, Greg Vincent says that the illegal fishing and selling of bonefish in The Bahamas is an "extremely important issue."
"The sports fishing industry based on a recent economic study has been valuaed at $141 million in annual revenue for the Bahamian economy.
"However those figures were also taken a year and half ago during a recession so the reality of it is, it's probably much higher than that" he said.

He further commented that in his view, one of the reasons this matter is not being addressed as aggressively as it should is because most Bahamians don't know the real value of bonefishing and it's economic benefits to the Bahamian economy and that most are unaware that there are fisheries restrictions as it relates to the fishing of this particular fish species.

"You're not allowed to net them and more importantly you're not allowed to buy and sell them" he said.

Vincent said that if citizens are offered a bonefish for purchase (they should be aware) that it is an illegal act and fisheries officials need to be informed as well as the police.

He said "I think the situation has been abused for too long, it's been overlooked for too long and I think what's been creeping into this is complacency. "

Vincent said that steps can be taken to prevent this from happening, and one of the best ways to implement this he says, is increasing funding for fisheries.

"Fisheries in general is probably one of the least funded arms of the government" he said.

He also said that when it comes to fisheries, there's very little to almost no enforcement and this too needs improving.

"Bahamians need to come together to police our waters ourselves and report any illegal activity, " he said.
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Old 03-09-2015, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

Why would anyone buy bonefish? They are so bony (that's why they are named bonefish) as to be inedible.
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Old 03-09-2015, 10:25 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

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Originally Posted by kaleun View Post
Why would anyone buy bonefish? They are so bony (that's why they are named bonefish) as to be inedible.
I hear what you are saying, but people find a way to eat Pike and Whitefish. I understand they are pretty bony also. If there is a will they will find a way.
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Old 03-23-2015, 06:04 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

I've used to be asked by locals many times while fighting a bonefish if they could have it when I landed it, at which point I would break off the fish. It's one of their few sources of protein so you can't really blame them plus most that do eat them don't benefit directly from tourism dollars. I've fished on Eleuthera for many years, the places that I used to stop at to fish for a few minutes don't have the resident schools anymore. There's still fish there but you have to get back in the boonies, farther than the locals are willing to go.
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Old 03-23-2015, 07:58 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

Though I never spent much time in the Bahamas, most of my time in other Caribbean nations, I suspect that things there may well be as they are elsewhere.

Though the economy as a whole benefits from a thriving fishery, the trouble is that only a select few actually do, and a good number of those few don't even claim where they are at as home. What that translates to is, while a select few rake in a fortune, and a restricted minority of locals benefit, on the whole the balance of the population does not. Those that give in and go to work for the above bringing in a sub-cost of living income, and those that don't left scrambling for whatever they can do to make ends meet.

With that in mind, the Bahamas is by a vast margin one of the more expensive places to live than say Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, and though I cannot comment on the state of things directly, using Jamaica as an example let me offer up the following;

My wife's and my first trip to Jamaica in 97 was a real eye opener for her in that across from the expensive resorts of Negril were what were literally one room corrugated tin shacks that entire families lived within. Their daily meals modest at best. Native grown fruits, white flour dumplings (touted as the reason the people were starving to death with their bellies full) their goat used for milking when it could do no more occasionally served up (so a rare thing and usually sold), and those that fished, what they'd catch.

We opted to go fishing with a pair of Rastafarians by the names of Jack and Tony instead of the local lone high dollar charter boat, their outriggers literally 20' bamboo poles, and on that trip I caught my first Marlin. You could see the anticipation in their eyes as to "what I was going to do with it" before it was even on the boat, and unknowing of the state of Billfish told them that they could have it to their relief.....and it is my understanding that they sold it.

That said, a year later we were back, Jack and Tony who the entire first trip had been eyeing my camo BDU's now a little more comfortable with us, me wearing similar on the second trip kept mentioning over and over how they'd really like a pair.....and why not? They were literally wearing the exact same clothes as the year before. The same raggedy shorts and t-shirts, and no shoes and clearly never wearing them.

So the third trip I brought them each a couple pairs of BDU's and t-shirts especially in that I'd not be keeping anymore Billfish...and by the fourth and fifth trips, their teeth failing even more, skinnier than ever, those t-shirts and BDU's had clearly been worn daily......and that once $.50 beer now cost $3.00 from all of the new U.S. investors buying up everything on 7-mile beach.

Point of that being?......The lions share of the population in many Caribbean nations are literally living hand to mouth. The few jobs there pay next to nothing, and that Bonefish, what we in the U.S. would never consider eating is a rare treat not giving a hoot about "protecting the fishery" in that it is not protecting it for them or their children, yet protecting it for a few people who don't need the money let alone the food anyway.

It doesn't serve them in the long run to go hungry and they realize that. They'll never benefit from a better fishery, and worse still they'll be the only ones to suffer for it in the mean time in that it only serves those who already can afford to carry such high morals.

In the end its a problem with rather simple solutions that won't change in our lifetime. So the question is "what can we do to help?"

Well, about all I can offer is rather shallow. Those clearly in need toss them a little extra in that tip to help make up for that released fish...and those not in need, well, give them the speech, and make it clear that you only support catch and release guides/charters.

How well does that work? Well, that charter service we use in Jamaica "Stanley's Deep Sea Fishing" due in small part to our efforts in our community increased their business which allowed them to grow steadily from that beat up old boat with plastic lawn chairs as Captains seats to the fleet they have today.....Yet most of all by the second year with me pressing for it (yet compensating them)......Joined the IGFA, and the Billfish Foundation, and went 100% catch and release on Billfish.

So YOU can make a difference......It just takes enough of YOUs to do it.

Stanley's website: Home
Click the image to open in full size.

B.E.F.
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Last edited by GrtLksMarlin; 03-23-2015 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 03-24-2015, 05:34 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

Bonefish are eaten in much of the Caribbean, and are considered a traditional food among Garifuna people of coastal Belize. They are protected in Belize too (as in the Bahamas), but locals take them in nets regularly. Bonefish may not be especially tasty, but it's hard to fight traditions!

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Old 03-30-2015, 08:05 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

grtlks, I'm right there with you- good story and I totally agree with your perspective on the caribbean scene.

My wife and I love the Keys, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and have visited all many times. I will never forget, however, one time we got off a cruise ship in the Bahamas and accepted an offer from a local for a short driving tour- not only did he take us to some of the typical tourist sites, but also for a run through the poorest sections of Nassau. Talk about an eye opener; it was much as you described seeing in Jamaica. Really made us think (and appreciate) how lucky we were to be born into a first-world country. Being middle-class in America would absolutely make you very wealthy in most Caribbean or Latin American countries. Even poor people in America are head & shoulders above the poor in these places! My wife has seen similar sights on a drive to a caving excursion in Belize, and on trips to Cancun.

While all countries have their very rich and very poor, as well as those in-between, I agree that it still behooves us to help those in need as best we can, and to be grateful, humble and appreciative when we visit countries such as these for our leisure and enjoyment.
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Old 03-30-2015, 11:20 AM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

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Originally Posted by grtlksmarlin View Post
Well, about all I can offer is rather shallow. Those clearly in need toss them a little extra in that tip to help make up for that released fish...and those not in need, well, give them the speech, and make it clear that you only support catch and release guides/charters.
I just thought of something I never considered doing before, yet it might just serve our goals, yet also those of the people that still need to get by. Now granted, I'm sure everyone here tips appropriately no matter where they are, yet what if you proposed the following when a guide is hoping to keep the fish, to the guide?

"How about instead of us keeping the fish, over and above what I'd normally be paying I'll give you $___ for each fish that I'm looking to catch you are able to put me on."

More out of our pockets most likely, yet they might just get you to that special spot making it a day of a lifetime.....and though I doubt most of us are getting there in our private jets so it hurts a little more, that little extra might just make a big difference in your day of fishing, the fishery itself, that guides life, and perhaps even change his views on how to do things.

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Old 03-31-2015, 12:23 PM
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Default Re: Reports of illegal bonefish harvesting

Interesting and illustrative story. Reminds me of elephants and other endangered species, where the knee jerk, feel good responses often do more harm than good and more nuanced approaches that take into account the needs and traditions of the local population, even though not as PC as some would desire, are what is required.
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