The Bahamas recently became the first country worldwide to earn a certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for spiny lobsters. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force was proud to be a part of a collaborative effort that resulted in this award. Spearheaded by the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association, the collaborative effort also
consisted of the Marine Resources Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, nongovernmental marine conservation, and other agencies within the Bahamas commercial fisheries sector. A major benefit of this certification is the enhanced access to foreign markets, which is expected to translate into long-term benefits for local fishermen and exporters of Bahamian spiny lobster. With approximately 9,000 people employed in fishing and a 90 million-dollar Bahamian fishing industry, many major leading companies and corporations in the USA view this achievement as a milestone in conducting business with The Bahamas. The MSC certification provides the credible endorsement for export to foreign markets while promoting sustainability for the lobster industry.
Before attaining this notable achievement, a country’s fisheries industry must meet the minimum standards for sustaining the industry. These include taking into account the health of the stock of spiny lobster; the impact of fishing on the marine environment; and the management of lobster fishing inclusive of marine law enforcement efforts of the Defence Force. Commander Defence Force, Commodore Tellis Bethel credits the hard working Officers and Marines of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in ensuring that protection of the country’s marine resources is enforced. “In the wake of two major Dominican poaching apprehensions, there is more work to be done,” acknowledges Commodore Bethel. “Poaching by Dominican fishermen in the southern Bahamas, the exceeding of catch limits by American sports fishermen in the north, and the indiscriminate fishing of local fishermen threaten the health of Bahamian fish stocks.” Nevertheless, he maintains that the resolve of the men and women of the Defence Force to safeguard our marine resources continues to be a determining factor for the positive impact the Force is having on the industry. With The Bahamas being the first within the Caribbean Region to receive this award; it now joins just 8 percent of developing countries to achieve this award. In January 2017, a detailed assessment was conducted that included review and input by a team of fishery science and policy experts. The Defence Force is currently working in collaboration with nongovernment and other Government agencies to implement a 5-year action plan to retain the country’s MSC Certification status.