Log In

Reset Password

Tighter rules on recreation fishing possible

Jeanne Atherden

Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Environment, has said that her department would consider putting extra regulations on recreational fishing in Bermuda.

Ms Atherden was speaking in response to calls from commercial fishermen who fear their livelihoods are being put at risk by people selling fish illegally on the roadsides and to restaurants.

She said the idea to limit the catch of people who fish for fun was floated two years ago but had not been taken up.

However she stressed she was not adverse to revisiting the proposal.

Ms Atherden told The Royal Gazette: “I have heard suggestions about licensing recreational fishing. It was thought of a couple of years back and it can be looked at again.

“I have seen a paper that talked about the regulations and I always believe that, periodically, you should look at whether an idea that was looked at before is possible now because technology has changed.

“But when you talk about recreational fishermen selling fish when they are not licenced to, usually you are talking about persons who have boats, not those families on the docks and that will be difficult to deal with.

“One thing is that we have to make sure we don’t create an environment such that it is impractical to enforce — you have to be practical.

“I saw the paper [on recreational fishing] and I didn’t see any notation as to why it didn’t happen — but with any new regulation you have to ask is it practical; how will you enforce it; and, as one warden said to me, if you are struggling now to regulate just the commercial people, just imagine what you would be trying to do if you added the recreational people to that as well.”

Last week it was reported that a spear fisherman got away with killing 42 parrotfish — a species protected under the Fisheries Act.

Many commercial fishermen interviewed by this newspaper said they believed recreational fishermen should have smaller catch limits than commercial fishermen who are subject to a $10,000 permit fee.

Data collected during a 2008 survey on recreational fishing, conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection, suggests that as many as 16,000 people in Bermuda fish on a recreational basis and that the total annual recreational catch amounted to almost two-thirds of commercial fishing catch.

On the issue of enforcement of illegal fishing in general there were many suggestions from fishermen and others in the community including better policing but one of the main issues appeared to be resources.

All government departments are under strict orders to curb spending and there is little chance of growing the fleet of five Fisheries wardens responsible for policing the seas, the docks, restaurants and roadside sellers — not to mention the vendors at public events around the Island.

Ms Atherden said: “There is nothing that is not going to be considered. For now we have to do the best we can with what we have; demand is what creates the need for illegal supply or people reacting to it so we have to turn around and stop the demand.

“It really is a combination of trying to make people believe that it is important enough that we don’t deplete our fish stocks.

“The public is also part and parcel of the extension of the wardens. By buying something at a cheap price you are creating the opportunity for our fish stocks to go down.

“You are not allowing us to stay on top of the usage and whether we need to do something to protect them.”