AMERICANS CONVICTED OF POACHING IN THE EXUMA PARK
Two Americans were fined $500 each by a magistrate on Tuesday for illegally fishing in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Four suspects were taken to court. The two guests on the vessel, a 35-year-old male, and a 32-year-old female were not charged
The arraignment took place after The Bahamas National Trust’s Park Wardens, The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and Members of the Exuma Cays community worked in a collaborative effort to apprehend the foreign fishing vessel in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park on Monday.
Acting on intelligence from the local community, a team consisting of the Park Warden and Royal Bahamas Defence Force Marines was able to intercept and detain a suspected poaching vessel within the boundaries of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.
A Park Warden and two RBDF Marines were dispatched to the area and the vessel was caught actively fishing in the national park. Four American nationals were found on board the 37 foot US registered vessel actively fishing well within park boundaries. The vessel did have fisheries product onboard.
The suspect vessel was then escorted to the Park Headquarters at Warderick Wells where a full boarding and inspection procedure was carried out by Park Staff and RBDF Marines. The vessel and crew were escorted to Nassau by RBDF Marines, and turned over to the Royal Bahamas Police Force
While appreciative that the crew were taken through the court system and fined, BNT officials expressed disappointment with the relatively insignificant fines levied. “Fishing in our national parks is a very serious offence, and as a country we need to send a strong message to discourage this”, said Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust. “These minimal fines will not act as a deterrent to others, and may instead convey the message that we’re really not serious about dealing with poachers in the Exuma Park. We obviously have a lot of work to do to educate even the magistrates about the seriousness of these vexing poaching incidents”
The Bahamas National Trust recently obtained (through three generous donors) a new state of the art Patrol Craft. Using new tools, such as this 28’ enforcement vessel, Park Staff are able to effectively monitor the park and respond efficiently to suspected poaching incidents. The vessel is outfitted with the latest safety and enforcement technologies.
“We attribute this successful apprehension to both our new patrol vessel, and the local community. Having the right tools for the job is a key part of ensuring we can enforce park regulations. We would definitely like to thank the local community member that gave us the tip on the suspect vessel. It is community relationships like this that we need to develop and strengthen to better help us protect our park.” said, Park Warden Brent Burrows II.
The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, established in 1959, was the world’s first protected area of its kind. A complete no take zone on both land and sea; the Park is known for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages, and breathtaking marine environment. The park boundaries run from Wax Cay Cut in the North, to Conch Cut in the South, and extend outwards approximately 4nm to either side of the cays. The park is managed by the Bahamas National Trust and is a strict no take zone. The Park staff maintain constant patrol operations to ensure both conservation and safety are maintained within the park boundaries. To report poaching; contact the ‘Park Warden’ on VHF09, or call the Park Office at +1 (242) 601-7438.
The Bahamas National Trust would like to thank especially the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for their support in this operation. BNT also acknowledges and appreciates the support of the Royal Bahamas Police Force as well as the individuals within the local community that provided tips & intelligence that led to the apprehension of these poachers.