November 19, 2012
Environmentalists are urging the government not to extend the grouper fishing season, as they fear it will harm the reproductive period of the species. Cabinet will tomorrow discuss whether or not to extend the grouper season into the month of December, to assist fishermen who were hurt economically by bad weather brought on by Hurricane Sandy, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray said yesterday. The MICAL MP said if Cabinet agrees to the extension the grouper season would close on January 1. The grouper season traditionally closes from December 1 until February 28.
"I have agreed to take the matter up with the Cabinet this coming Tuesday, and I'm hoping that I can persuade them to assist the fisherman out there who are hurting terribly because of the storm that recently passed," he said. "I'm hoping that they will agree with me, and if they do I will make the announcement on Wednesday. If they don't, I will also announce the reason of not being able to do so. It is up to the Cabinet to decide if they give a month's reprieve from the closure of the season." While fishermen will welcome a possible extension to the grouper fishing season, some environmentalists are worried about the impact on the country's marine resources.
"The Bahamas is one of the last remaining strongholds for the Nassau grouper throughout its geographic range," Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), said in a statement. "The Nassau grouper is already commercially extinct in many neighboring countries, and is recognized as an endangered species by the World Conservation Union. The closed season is critical to ensuring that future generations of Bahamians can enjoy this important fish." She added that the closed season is the peak time for grouper to spawn. BREEF has called for the closed season to become law, similar to the legislation governing the crawfish season and stone crabs.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is also worried about any talks to extend the season. "The BNT feels that shortening the closed season would take conservation back a few steps, and takes away the great strides that have been made in restoring The Bahamas' grouper population to its former sustainable yield status," said Eric Carey, executive director of the BNT. "It is our considered view that The Bahamas should be moving toward a permanent closed season supported by legislation so the grouper is protected throughout its reproductive period.
We feel that not having a consistent fixed period will lead to confusion and uncertainty and continued requests to postpone the closed season." Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said many fishermen in her constituency are advocating for the extension. "This is what my constituents are asking," she said. "Are we going to be able during the month of December to try and make something off groupers?" Gray said he has taken account of the comments from the fishing community and environmentalists, but the decision is now up to Cabinet. "I always consider every voice," he said.
"The government has to always balance the need for conservation against the need to survive. I have considered all of those things, now it's up to my colleagues to consider it and whatever they decide that's what we will do. But no voices have gone unheard." Gray also said government will offer financial compensation to fisherman who suffered hardship because of Hurricane Sandy. Some farmers will also be eligible for compensation or seedlings and fertilizer lost as a result of the storm.
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