On Monday July 9th, Assistant Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain in Court #8, fined five persons from Puerto Rico, $2500 each after they pleaded guilty to fishing in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP). The park is a “no take” marine protected area.
While delivering her sentence, the magistrate scolded the defendants, telling them of the importance of National Parks and the need to prevent persons from fishing there. She said that in many cases these parks protect endangered species, and if people take the wildlife, there would not be any left.
Magistrate Swain made the point of letting the defendants know that the maximum penalty could include the confiscation of their vessel, but advised she was not considering this option, since the men were not engaged in commercial fishing.
The conviction, the result of joint operations between the BNT ECLSP staff, and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), with key support and cooperation from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), was a team effort. The actions of Park Wardens and RBDF marines in correctly executing the vessel inspection and following professional enforcement protocols, were key elements to this successful prosecution and conviction.
Mr. Jomo Campbell, attorney for the defendants, indicated that the defendants were remorseful and understood that they were wrong.
“We are certainly very pleased to get a successful conviction for fishing in the national park”, said Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director. “Fish in National Parks are protected so that they can replenish fishing grounds outside of parks. Poaching has serious negative impacts on the effectiveness of a Marine Protected Area. We express appreciation to the RBDF. Without their support, we could not have accomplished this. We are also very grateful to the RBPF, and in particular Chief Superintendent Arnett and the Carmichael Road team.”
BNT is working with the Department of Legal Affairs, to update and modernize the regulations under the BNT Act. The proposed changes will allow for a more efficient and streamlined process, to save time and resources. The changes would also allow for some of these matters to be dealt with by enforcement officers on the spot.
This successful prosecution and conviction is a strong, positive development for the BNT. It also encourages the wardens, by demonstrating that the system works, and that their efforts are not in vain. BNT believes that this will also send a clear message to all park visitors – local and foreign – that park staff is serious about protecting our country’s natural resources, and that fishing will not be tolerated in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
Sportfishing vessel intercepted in the Exuma Land & Sea Park.
Sportfishing vessel intercepted by ECLSP Park Warden and Royal Bahamas Defence Force Marine.