The Bahamian government has suspended the controversial flats fishing regulations and licensing requirements that went into effect in January 2017.
In a statement, the Abaco Fly-Fishing Guides Association expressed relief over the suspension of the regulations, which called for foreign vessels wishing to fish Bahamian flats to obtain the usual sport-fishing permit and required all non-Bahamians over the age of 12 who wished to fish the flats to apply for a personal angler’s license and pay a fee (from $15 for a single day up to $60 for an annual license). The Abaco group blamed the stringent regulations introduced by the former Christie administration for causing a major decline in anglers visiting the Bahamas to bonefish.
According to the AFFGA, the licensing process proved difficult and confusing. There was no way to buy the license online. A license application was available for download on the government’s website that each angler was to print, fill out, and present to the administrator’s office of the respective island between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., from Monday through Friday only, with a one-day turnaround for license issuance.
The Minnis administration suspended enforcement of the regulations until their impact can be reviewed, a move immediately slammed by Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell, who described the situation as “shameful” and said Renward Wells, Bahamas Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, failed to stand up for conservation and Bahamian bonefish guides while foregoing the revenue that will now be lost from fishing licenses.