Bahamas Draft Fisheries Regulations Set to Shut Down Flats Fishing Tourism Sector?
So by now we’ve all heard about the new proposed flats fishing regulations that seem to make DIY angling and foreign-owned lodges illegal. We’ve all had our little respective meltdowns and (some of us) are wondering how the heck we’re ever going to afford that next bonefish.
Personally, I think this smacks of classic politics and the triumph of so-called “common sense” over cold, hard data. In a 2010 Economic Report Bonefish & Tarpon Trust discovered that flats fishing brings over 140 million dollars into the Bahamian economy. No surprise there. The surprising part is that over two-thirds of that (over 100 million dollars) was from Non-Guided (DIY) Anglers. I was shocked to read that, but after a bit of reading and consideration it made sense. It seems that DIY anglers spend more days in the Bahamas. I mean, if you can afford two days at a lodge for $1,500 USD or a full week for $2,000, which are you going to choose? You’ll drop the extra $500 every time! And, while you’re there for those extra days, you’ll likely drink a little more than you should, drive a little farther to find fish than you were expecting and buy a few more orders of conch fritters than you’d budgeted for.
I mean, this is business 101, right? People will spend more IF they think they’re getting a deal. Witness the iPhone, or Abel reels, or YETI coolers.
This, it seems is why the DIY angler is such a massive contributor to the Bahamian economy. And, it must be mentioned that he spreads his money around: car rental, accommodations, groceries, taxi, drinks, restaurants, tackle shops, and, yes, guides. Everyone gets a little slice.
In light of this I have written the follow letter to the Bahamas Fisheries Dept. Make your feelings known here: email@example.com. YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015!
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing with concern for the new Draft Regulations for the Bahamas Fisheries, particularly Flats Fishing. I am worried that the move to limit (or outright ban) Do It Yourself anglers (DIY) would severely damage the Bahamas’ economy. My concern is based on research data collect by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (which can be read in it’s entirety here: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/images/stories/Bahamas_Flats_Economic_Impact_Report.pdf, and I’ve also attached a copy for your reference).
In this report they note that “Direct expenditures for both guided and non-guided anglers were nearly $70 million (Table 7). Guided anglers accounted for 21% of this total while non-guided angler spending comprised 79% of flats angler’s direct spending in the Bahamian economy.”
So, the impact to the Bahamian economy by Non-Guided anglers (DIY) is 3 times that of Guided anglers. This is surprising but is because non-guided anglers are clearly spending more time in your lovely, hospitable islands (as Table 7 in the report clearly shows).
I am an independent guide myself in the Cayman Islands, and I’ve also been tempted to push back against Non-Guided anglers, because “common sense” says they’re harming my business. However, the data does not show this to be true. In fact, DIY anglers contribute tremendously to our economy, renting cars, buying petrol, renting accommodations, buying food and drinks, visiting restaurants, frequenting tackle shops, purchasing souvenirs, etc. These moneys do benefit me in the long run because they enrich my island, my homeland and my people. Also, many of these anglers do end up booking me for at least 1 day, and often refer friends and family to me as well. In fact, more anglers in my waters can only mean more business in the long run… IF the proper conservation measures are in place to prevent over-fishing and destruction of habitat.
Of course, I have fished many times in Bahamian waters and do not wish to lose the option of doing a little fishing on my own while visiting. I will point out that I have fished out of lodges (Big Charlie & Fatihas on Andros), with DIY Lodges (Fedel’s on Acklins), and with Independent Guides, including J.J. Dames on Great Exuma. However, on all of these trips I enjoyed grabbing my fishing rod and a Kalik and walking the flats at sunset, looking for just a few more tailing bonefish. Sometimes I caught fish and sometimes I did not, but I always enjoyed myself. It would be a shame for something like that to be impossible.
To be clear, I fully support immediate implementation of a Fishing License requirement (as Florida has required for many years), but it should be reasonable. $20/day is not reasonable. That would add $120 to every week-long stay at a fishing lodge, whose average prices are already barely competitive with other flats fishing destinations like Belize, Honduras and Mexico. A fishing license in Florida (which also has bonefish, tarpon and permit) is only $30 USD PER WEEK! Why would someone pay for a plane ticket, book an expensive lodge AND pay nearly $100 in addition to these expenses when they could simply stop in Miami and be done with it? It think this is something that should be seriously thought through.
I hope that my letter (and the letter of the countless other anglers out there) will provide some perspective on how this Draft Legislation, IF turned into law AS IS, would harm rather than help the Bahamian people.