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.
Footage and discussion from Little Cayman and one of the last (fairly) healthy nassau grouper spawning aggregations in the Caribbean.
There’s really good evidence to suggest that when those grouper are spawning out there, the baby grouper that are produced end up back on the Cayman reefs.
After they sold what they could here then they took their catch to Grand Cayman and sold what they could there. The market was glutted and lots of fish went to waste… spoiled.
Grouper are an apex predator on coral reefs… the more of them you have, ultimately the healthier your coral reefs will be.
December 24, 2011
Head east, past the cruise ships, tourist traps, and taxis, past the miles of coastline, muddied by the winds of the last fortnight. Small bays open unexpectedly around corners glimmering blue through vignettes of seagrape groves, crowned by black and white reefs. Spindrift mists the windscreen, blurring details. The horizon seems impossibly far off.
Each flat is a washout: muddy sloshing waves. Like seeing an old friend drunk and angry, you recognize nothing. Drive on. Eventually you’ll run out of land and find yourself on the edge, the uttermost east with nothing but water between you and the Continent where this merciless wind was born. The past few days have been an exercise in futility, and always the sound of the wind, searching, feeling, testing. You hear words in it, half-caught mocking phrases. You suspect you might be going slightly mad.
Standing on that edge you find a surprise: the water here is clear. For the first time in days you actually see the grassy banks, sandy spits, and blue holes that comprise the marine terrain your putative quarry inhabits. Your spirits rise as you string your rod, test knots, tighten various straps and begin to walk. Almost immediately there are signs: a boil and a push in a familiar place. The tide feels right.
A constant sea crests the reef to the windward, and, robbed of it’s ocean-going energy, it crosses the bay to surge almost lanquidly against the shore. A wave breaks, retreats, and there they are: two translucent blue-grey dorsals knifing toward deeper water. Bonefish.
Your first cast is on target but the current sweeps the fly toward the fish. They spook instantly. You recast to intercept their half-guessed retreating shapes, more out of habit than hope. The result is expected: nothing.
Almost immediately you spot another shape cruising the foamline of a retreating wave. A big single. The cast is almost reflexive, dropping the fly two feet ahead and slightly left. The fish reacts immediately. You strip and feel resistance: fish on! It glides forward, shaking it’s head as if puzzled; the fly—a laughably simple thing—is clearly visible on the starboard side of its face as you keep stripping line, trying frantically to keep tight. Big fish. Twenty-eight inches? Twenty-nine?
The fish sees you and vanishes in an impossible burst of acceleration. Line is dancing everywhere and you suffer that habitual momentary panic where you’re certain you’re standing on it. You look down, but no, it’s clear. Then you sense rather than see the knot form, feel it slip through your fingers and slap against the first guide of your rod with an oddly metallic sound, like a machete buried with force into a coconut. The rod buckles and in a desperate defiant gesture you lunge forward, throwing slack in the line. The fish slows. You reach up, grab the snarl of line, and give it one futile shake before it’s jerked from your trembling fingers. The rod bends, straightens. The fish is gone.
It takes five minutes to clear the tangle. You tie on another fly and keep walking, catching a few schoolies before the tide is gone and you have to admit that you must leave now if you’re to get any Christmas shopping done. Before reeling in you stand on that first flat once more, hoping. The fishing was good today, especially considering the dismal results of the last week. You even got a five-pounder there at the end, but that fish, that first fish keeps coming back to ruin it all. Thirty inches?
The sun is low. Your shadow stretches out, straining for the horizon even as you turn away. You put the wind at your back and head for home. It’s Christmas Eve.
Dec. 7, 2011: South of Chicago. 0214 hrs.
Dark waves of asphalt rose and fell like deep ocean swells, passing easily beneath. The traveler’s eyes stared out blankly over wine-dark waters and a rushing, moonless night. The trees—and they were indeed trees, scattered carelessly over the landscape and leaning, drunkenly, like tombstone in a ghost-town graveyard—were clouds to him, star-crowned and formless on the edge of the world.
The odometer ground away the miles, like a heartbeat, precisely marking each passing minute, each hour that divided the indifferent seasons that pass into years, each sinking like Atlantis into that immutable past from which he came. Where he was bound was simply away. Away from the past, from that other life, those other lives—from that hard shouldered harbor town rife with ghosts of pirates and sailors, wreckers and fishermen, all lost to the sea, away from the empty mud flats alive with silver dreams, away from the hot taste of salt in the corner of his mouth and the color of her eyes, blue and gray as a windswept dawn.
Still he rose and fell, in a trance of half-remembered, half-tasted beer and cheap rum, like the sharp tang of gunpowder and blood, and all around him bodies pulsing, grinding to a primal beat, sweat dripping on the asphalt and steaming. He blinked and the town was silent again—sea-air and bottles in the sandy gutters—at rest, as if God had finally stopped the carnival.
And inside the wheelhouse the traveler wrung out the miles, knuckles white on the wheel, eyes fixed on the edge of the world. And all around him the ghosts they crowded, whispering.
Ok, this is something I stumbled over at Fly Art Studio that is super helpful. Of course, you probably already know all this stuff, especially if (like most of my meager readership) you already blog. Ok then, you might like to post this on your own blog.
If you use Firefox as your browser you can simply subscribe using Live Bookmarks, which is already included in Firefox. However, you might need to find the page that allows you to do this. Here’s how:
- Simply look for the link title: “View Feed XML” and click.
- Choose “Subscribe to this page using Live Bookmarks“.
That’s it. Done. Then when you go back to your Bookmarks tab in you menu and scroll down to the “Bookmarks Toolbar” heading you see the name of the newly subscribed-to blog next to the little RSS symbol.