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By ALISON LOWE
Expecting a "tremendous reduction" to have been achieved in the Bahamas' food import bill in the past year due to increases in the farming of fruits and vegetables, the Minister of Agriculture yesterday said he hopes this nation will become an exporter of onions in 2011.
"Based on what we have seen from the packing houses, the produce exchange, along the roadsides and at Potter's Cay and other areas with small markets, it certainly looks to me that there is much more being produced," Larry Cartwright said of general agricultural output, during the first day of the Agri-Business Expo on Gladstone Road.
Key stakeholders in the national "Conchservation" campaign are advocating a possible ban on conch exports until the domestic reserves reach acceptable levels.
Following the launch of Conchservation last weekend, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) are in open dialogue on the way forward. Both parties agree that the conch population has reached a "critical stage", and rather than implementing an open season, meaningful changes are needed to save the iconic mollusc.
"We export around 500,000 pounds of conch each year," said Neil McKinney, the president of BNT. "According to the Department of Marine Resources, there are around three conch to a pound. So that's 1.5 million being exported every year. It is more than the stocks can bear."
Allaying the concerns of the fishing community, the BNT president said banning conch fishing outright or imposing a specific season could possibly be avoided. Fishermen are reluctant to allow a season because many Bahamians make ends meet on conch when crawfish season is closed.
Adrian La Roda, BCFA spokesperson, said banning conch exports would be a welcomed policy.
He said a compromise for BCFA is not to reduce exports but eliminate them entirely. While conch exporters might not relish the idea, he pointed out that 1.5 million conchs does not represent a large industry.
"It will have a minimum effect on exports and a big impact on the population. We think the domestic population will be better served by harvesting for local consumption only," he explained. "We are not going to support a closed season or any sort of ban. We need other means to reach a solution."
La Roda also argued that a ban on exports would make the Bahamian conch more "special" and a greater draw for tourists.
Whether exports are banned or not, McKinney told Guardian Business that last weekend's event is only a first step.
He said education must now kick in whereby Bahamians stop harvesting conchs that have yet to mature and spawn. He also called for the outlaw of fishing methods whereby underwater breathing apparatuses, typically used for lobster, allow fishermen to dive below 60 feet and take immature conches.
Another issue both sides seem to agree on are reserves so the existing conch population can breed undisturbed.
"How big would those reserves be? And how many would it take to sustain and eventually grow the stock?" he asked. "How will it be managed or enforced? We've reached a crucial stage where these questions and more needed to be answered."
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Deputy Chief Reporter
CRAWFISH industry insiders said more research on fish stocks is needed before the sector can increase exports to new markets such as China.
The comments came after Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told a visiting Chinese delegation that he wants the country to capitalise on China's large appetite for crawfish.
"We're always interested in other markets as long as it's not to the detriment of our resources here," said Mia Issacs, head of the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association (BMEA).
"We'll have to ensure that all measures are in place (to) preserve our markets," ad ...
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour once again for me to make a presentation to this Honourable House relative to the national budget.
The book of Ecclesiastes records that "there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven".
By ALISON LOWE
The Bahamas' $218 million leading exporter has called for more "transparency" from the Grand Bahama Power Company and extra "synergy" between the industrial community and the education system, noting that high power costs and suitably-skilled employees remain the two main obstacles facing industrial investors.
Greg Ebelhar, chief operations officer at Grand Bahama-based Polymers International, also suggested the "murky future" of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) must be "settled" if international investors are to be enticed to the Bahamas' second city.
Looking ahead, however, Mr Ebelhar co ...
Local exporters collectively distributed $67.9 million worth of lobsters in 2010, with this year's bottom line in trouble for some companies as U.S. buyers demand Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
It's a situation that exporter Tropic Seafood has found itself in as their buyers Walmart and Sams Club in the U.S. move to demand that their suppliers be MSC certified -- the new international environmental standard that promotes sustainability in fisheries.
"As of 2011, [these] companies have taken the position of MSC certification," President of Tropic Glenn Pritchard said yesterday at the 2011 Food, Flavor & Beverage Trends workshop, held at the Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute. "We've contributed monetarily to help move this situation along."
The lobster exporters have now all banded together to help further the MSC cause in The Bahamas. It's a major problem for Tropic Seafood and many of the other 9 lobster exporters in the country, given The Bahamas happens to be one of the countries still not certified.
All told, the exporters have so far spent $100,000 in its efforts to spread awareness of the issue -- which involve everything from overfishing, undersized catches and general standards -- to the fishermen throughout the country.
Their undertakings involve everything from the distribution of measuring tools to fishermen as a way to gauge undersized catches, to the travel throughout the islands spreading the word at lionfish tournaments to help eliminate threats to lobsters.
But even with all of their efforts, the country is about two to three years away from getting that important MSC sticker on its products being exported out of the country.
"No one knows how long because this has taken such a long time to collect the data [and] we're funding it through the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association," he told Guardian Business. "What we did is put a small fee on the crawfish we export and use that to fund the project.
"But this is a good thing [because] if we succeed we'll be one of the only countries in the world with lobster MSC certification and the benefits from going through this process has benefitted the industry a lot and lends to sustainability."
The campaign is in conjunction with the Department of Marine Resources, the Nature Conservancy, the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance, the World Wildlife Fund, the Bahamas National Trust and Friends of the Environment.
It follows The Bahamas being barred from exporting its lobster tails until a catch certificate requirement was put in place. That certificate allows purchasers to trace catches from their possession all the way back to the original fishing boat.