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North Eleuthera and Spanish Wells Fishermen Squabble Over Fisheries
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Posted by:Dec 7th 2007, 09:01:29 pm
Fig Tree News TeamBy Nadine Thomas-Brown, Guardian Staff Reporter, nadine@nasguard.com

A dispute is threatening to escalate between North Eleutheran and Spanish Wells fishermen, who both complain that the others are infringing on their fishing space.

The issue, a long-standing one, has again reared its ugly head after being somewhat sorted out by government over seven years ago according to the fishermen. North Eleutheran fisher folk have

complained about what they have called the "bullying tactics" used by fishermen from Spanish Wells to chase them from fishing areas East of Lobus off Cuba, an area which they claim all Bahamian fishermen have a right to harvest.

Meanwhile the Spanish Wells fishermen have reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources that traps which they have invested thousands of dollars to construct, are frequently invaded by the fishermen from North Eleuthera and elsewhere. However the North Eleutherans claim that the traps laid out take up so much space that there is hardly room for them to put down their own traps. They said that they have resorted to taking catch from the traps, because even though the Spanish Wells men bought them, they have put them in an area that is fair game for everyone.

According to Director of Marine Resources Michael Brennen who said that he has heard of the feud before, " this is a dilemma which does not have any easy solution. The situation has escalated many times in the past he said while citing Andros as an example of another hot spot dealing with the same issue.

While the Director seemed stumped about a way to resolve the "dilemma" matters may again be escalating. One 25-year-old fisherman, Wayne Kelly, alleged that men, whom he identified as Spanish Wells fishermen, tried to cut the air hose on his diving equipment while he was checking crawfish traps on a recent fishing trip. He claimed that guns were also fired in the air in an effort to scare him and his dad. He said that he had reported the matter to the police.

Other North Eleutheran fishermen have also said that in recent trips, Spanish Wells men have tried to scare them off with speedboats.

Meanwhile, older fishermen fear that these incidents will escalate, leading to serious injuries on both sides as young tempers flare.

Another issue raised by one irate fisherman from North Eleuthera reiterated a more than 14-year-old complaint, that the use by the "Spanish Wells men" of illegal condominiums is killing out the food supplies needed for the fish and crawfish population to survive. "Vast areas are black due to the number of traps that they have put down on the bottom. The grass is dead," he told The Guardian.

However, when asked whether the Ministry had any knowledge of this, Director Brennen said that as far as he knew the use of condominiums was not illegal and that no permission was needed to put them down. As for the vanishing seagrass he said, "We are very interested in this area and would like to investigate but have not been able to."

A reason was not given as to why this was so.

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