AFFTA Statement on Proposed Bahamas Legislation


AFFTA_Logo_Blue_BlackFrom AFFTA:

June 23, 2015

T Braynen
Director Department of Marine Resources
P.O. Box N 3028
Nassau, Bahamas

The destination angler traveling to the Bahamas has for many decades played a vital role
in the health of the Bahamian economy. These tens of thousands of Bahamas-bound
anglers also play a crucial role in the U.S.-based fly-fishing industry as a whole. For these
reasons, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) opposes the Fisheries
Resources Regulations of 2015 in its present draft form. We would further encourage
Bahamian legislators to carefully consider the negative impacts that such heavy-handed
and unnecessary regulation will have on destination angling and fly fishing throughout
the Bahamas.

We strongly encourage the Bahamian government to reject the draft of these
regulations in their present form and seriously evaluate whether these proposed regulations are truly good for the Bahamas as a whole.

Recent data (from The Economic Impact of Flats Fishing in The Bahamas; Tony Fedler, Ph.D) shows that anglers traveling to the Bahamas in 2010 spent over $141 million to
fish the Bahamas, bringing to the developed islands of the Bahamas (and perhaps more
importantly the out-islands) thousands of jobs and economic benefit. And the best news
of all: These anglers were spending money on a low-impact, totally renewable pastime on
the islands and in the communities that need it the most. Fast-forward to 2016 with the
U.S.’s improved economy and an end to its recession, there is little doubt that this number
of $141 million will in all likelihood significantly increase.

The ill-conceived and downright puzzling attempts by a small number of self-serving
individuals in the Bahamian fly fishing industry to fast-track the proposed Fisheries
Resources Regulations has already put the destination fishing industry of the Bahamas at
great risk. The industry outcry, social media reaction and backlash in the last two days
alone have already tarnished the image of the Bahamas as a paradise for traveling
anglers. If key elements of this proposed legislation become reality, there is a chance that
the lucrative and valuable destination angling industry servicing the Bahamas will suffer
catastrophic damage that will negatively affect the Bahamian economy.

Creating an environment where foreign anglers, non-Bahamian lodge and property
owners, and even casual tourists looking to fish are essentially locked off the water and
off the flats makes no sense at all. While a handful of local guides and lodge owners
might see this as a short-term win and a way to artificially strengthen their own small
businesses, the Bahamas as a whole will lose in a big way. Heavy-handed and
unnecessary regulations will send a message to destination anglers throughout the world
that they are not welcome in the Bahamas unless they are willing to pay to fish with a
small number of “select” guides or lodges. This at a time when Belize, the Yucatan, Cuba
and numerous other international destinations are welcoming and marketing to foreign
anglers and investors like never before. The proposed regulations will successfully and
immediately drive destination anglers and the dollars and jobs that they bring to
destinations other than the Bahamas. The Bahamian government should be doing
whatever it takes to increase sustainable anglers’ access to the flats instead of limiting

Our industry members are deeply concerned with the proposed Fisheries Resource
Regulations and the impacts these new laws would have on their businesses and the flyfishingindustry as a whole.

As one lodge owner from Abaco recently stated, the timing and the tone of the proposed
regulations are awful and will further erode the competitive position of the Bahamas as a
fishing destination at a time when visitors are already reeling from the recent imposition
of Value added tax.

Other industry members and fly-fishing businesses have also weighed on the issue this
past week.

“As a fly shop owner that currently hosts annual trips to the Bahamas, I am very
concerned by the proposed regulations,” said AFFTA member Colby Trow, who owns
Mossy Creek Fly Fishing in Virginia. “Over the past 12 years of hosting fishing trips in
the Bahamas, our retail shop has brought over $75,000 annually to the Bahamian
economy. The proposed changes would unconstructively impact our customers who
presently travel to the Bahamas and will certainly create a situation where we would look
to other flats destinations throughout the Caribbean.”

President of Simms Fishing Products K.C. Walsh further added, “there is no doubt that
such short-sighted legislation will negatively impact the economy of the Bahamas and
reduce access for visiting anglers. If the draft proposal passes, anglers that currently
travel to the Bahamas will surely find other flats fishing destinations.”

Ian Davis, co-owner and saltwater program director for Yellow Dog Flyfishing
Adventures commented “it is unfortunate that a small number of self-serving, outspoken
guides and lodge owners have gathered momentum to the point that these regulations are
actually being considered and discussed. The potential harm to the Bahamian sportfishing
industry is immeasurable.”

The one piece of the proposed regulations that AFFTA and the fly fishing industry would
support would be a daily and weekly marine fishing license for all recreational anglers
fishing in the Bahamas. If a license were easily attainable on-line, provided
indiscriminate access to the flats and the shallow waters of the Bahamas, and if the funds
generated were designated for conservation and protection of Bahamian resources, then a
sportfishing license could be a great thing for the Bahamas and its economy. The key
with a successful and well-executed license program will use generated funds to enhance
and protect the flats’ ecosystems and habitats, drawing more anglers into the Bahamian
tourism economy.

In closing, it is important that input on this issue should be solicited from all involved and
concerned parties, including independent Bahamian guides, lodges (both foreign-owned
and locally owned), anglers, second home-owners, scientists, conservation groups and the
fly fishing industry as a whole. Rushing forward on legislation that will ultimately cost
the Bahamas hundreds of millions of dollars in angling-related revenue and countless
jobs throughout the country would be a tragic mistake.


Ben Bulis
President – American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Tucker Ladd
Chairman – American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Jim Klug
Chairman Emeritus – American Fly Fishing Trade Association
Chairman – AFFTA Fisheries Fund


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