Fishermen: We're just scratching surface on our exports potential


Tribune Business Reporter

FISHERMEN yesterday backed a Cabinet Minister's goal of doubling Bahamian fisheries exports to near-$200 million, telling Tribune Business: "We don't fish our ocean, only our banks."

Keith Carroll, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance's (BCFA) vice-president, agreed that this nation was only scratching the surface of its fisheries potential. "We don't fish our ocean; only our banks," he said.

"From Abaco to Inagua is our territorial waters. We have tuna, sword fish and all other kinds of other fish in these waters that we could export. We need to look at other types of fish and not just concentrate on lobster, grouper and snapper. You have fish pass through our waters and Americans in the windward passage are just waiting to catch them."

Mr Carroll added that many of these fish species found in Bahamian waters end up in the restaurants of major local resorts, but are not caught by the country's fishermen. He said the reason Bahamian fishermen do not exploit the likes of tuna and swordfish is due to the controversy surrounding long-line fishing methods.

Long-line fishing involves setting steel line, usually for several miles, with baited hooks every few feet. However, Mr Carroll said more jobs could be created in the fisheries sector - and more revenue generated - via exports if the Bahamas was to exploit other fish resources.

Earlier this week Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources, said he had set himself the "goal" of doubling the Bahamas' annual $90 million fisheries exports.

He added that this nation's fisheries exports - $70 million of which are spiny lobster and crawfish, and the remaining $20 million conch, stone crab and snappers - represented an important avenue to increase the Bahamas' foreign currency earnings. Mr Wells also suggested there is the potential to catch other fish such as tuna and wahoo for export.