Proposed new fishing rules in the Bahamas have American fly fishing lovers up in arms, with some outraged anglers proposing a boycott. At Hatch Mag, incensed writer Ty Hansen described the proposed rules as “some of the most inane pablum coming from the Bahamian side the Caribbean since Columbus sailed past the northern tip of Long Island and proclaimed himself the master of the Indies.”
An estimated 3.83 million Americans spend about $750 million on fly fishing in the U.S. each year, and many elite anglers prize Bahamian waters as prime hunting grounds for the silver bonefish. Now, U.S. fly anglers say the draconian new rules would place far too many restrictions on foreign anglers and guides. For their part, the Bahamian Department of Marine Fisheries says the rules are designed to prevent over fishing and help Bahamian citizens enter the local fishing industry.
In a recommendation letter to the Department of Marine Fisheries, the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA) recommends that foreign visitors and groups should be required to hire certified local guides at a ratio of two visitors per guide. In addition, the new rules would limit foreign ownership of fishing lodges, locations where many anglers come to stay and fish. In the future, fishing lodges would be required to have a majority Bahamian ownership.
Anglers who don’t want to hire local guides, called unguided anglers (UGAs) in the letter, would be restricted to designated zones, to be determined by local guides and lodges. In effect, the rules would give the BFFIA and local fishing guides strict oversight of virtually all fishing in Bahamian waters, including the right to sell (and deny) fishing permits.
“This kills the DIY game fairly handily for most of us,” wrote angry angler Bjorn Stromsness. “There would be no more exploring on your own in the Bahamas. You’d have a beat assigned to you, to walk like hundreds before you. I won’t do it.”
The BFFIA maintains the rules will prevent overfishing and stimulate the local economy. Meanwhile, fly anglers around the world are rallying to voice their strong opposition to the Department of Marine Fisheries.