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Spearfishing investigation launched

The Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a report of potential illegal spearfishing at the weekend.

According to the Maritime Operations Centre, staff were contacted at about 1pm on Sunday by a member of the public, who reported seeing a boat with three people on board wearing wetsuits.

The people on the boat appeared to be putting away spears, but the boat was in an area where spearfishing is not permitted.

A report on the Department of Marine and Ports website stated: “From the registration numbers provided the boat is determined to be a rental vessel.

“With the vessel under way through Town Cut, St George’s towards Ferry Reach, fisheries wardens are contacted and a rental boat matching the description is later spotted at a dock in the Ferry Reach area.”

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that the Fisheries Department is looking into the incident, stating that the investigation is still in the early stages.

Spearfishing in Bermuda requires a licence, and is not permitted within one nautical mile of the shore unless the fish is a lionfish for which special permissions have been granted as they pose a threat to Bermuda’s native and endemic fish species.

Spearfishing is further limited to two fish per species per day except for rockfish for which only one per boat per day is permitted.

In July the Fisheries wardens responded to a report of a snorkeller behaving suspiciously. While the suspect escaped, wardens discovered a spear attached to a string of 42 dead parrotfish — a species protected under the Fisheries Act.

Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment added: “As the number of persons using a spear increases there can be some enforcement risks associated. The Ministry has always sought to weigh the risks against the potential benefits.

“Allowing spearfishing for lionfish is a reflection of the concerns to control this species. We are looking at all practical means of controlling the species and we are continuing our research on trapping while collaborating with other jurisdictions to identify additional tools.”

• Anyone with information about illegal fishing activity should contact the fisheries wardens on 705-3474 or 293-5600, or send an e-mail to fisheries@gov.bm.