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The Battle for Bonefish and the Future of the Bahamas, Part 1

by Beau Beasley

Bonefish are one of the top targets of saltwater fly anglers worldwide, with good reason: when hooked, these torpedo-shaped, silvery fish, which can grow nearly three feet long and tip the scales at 15 pounds, are known for their blistering runs and fierce fights. The angler who hooks such a brute can quickly find himself looking at his backing and whacking his knuckles on his whirling fly reel handle. In fact, if he tied his knots improperly, he’ll probably even see his fly line disappear through the end of his rod tip. Once tipped off to a predator, wary bonefish simply vanish into the flats they call home. Stealth, speed, and tenacity: perhaps it makes sense that the US Navy dubbed two submarines USS Bonefish (SS-582 and SS-223).

Bonefish and their future are currently at the center of a conflict raging on the island nation of the Bahamas. This Caribbean island chain, where Columbus first made landfall at the end of the 15th century, lies northeast of Cuba and east/southeast of Florida. The Bahamas’ main industries are tourism and banking.

Many of the current inhabitants of the Bahamas are direct or indirect descendants of slaves who were brought there by Europeans. Great Britain, for example, relocated some American Loyalists (supporters of the Crown) and their slaves to the Bahamas after the American Revolutionary War. When the islands became a Crown colony in the early 18th century, the British hotly pursued the pirates who had been plying their trade quite freely. In 1973, the Bahamas gained their independence from Great Britain.

This year, the Bahamian government, its citizens, local businesses, tourism booking agents, independent fly fishing guides, and foreign-owned or -influenced fly fishing lodges have become embroiled in a debate over what an outsider might deem a seemingly innocuous piece of draft legislation released in mid-June, titled the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act. At the center of the controversy are the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA) and its president, Prescott Smith, a well-known fly fishing guide and son of Charlie Smith, designer of the famed “Crazy Charlie” bonefish fly and the very first fly fishing lodge owner in the Bahamas.

BFFIA

BFFIA is an association that represents guides and various lodge owners and operators who run fly fishing-related businesses across the country’s many islands. In addition to lobbying the Bahamian government as an  industry voice, the BFFIA now seeks to establish professional standards to which all fly fishing guides in the Bahamas must adhere; to be involved in local conservation efforts of industry interest; and to establish a conservation fund, a percentage of which would underwrite BFFIA itself.    

Prescott Smith (recently re-elected as president of the BFFIA) and the rest of the Association’s leadership have faced intense scrutiny and harsh criticism in recent weeks. Allegations have ranged from incompetence to using the BFFIA as a cover to shore up personal businesses that detractors say are failing as a result of mismanagement. Accusers suggest that BFFIA leaders have pushed the proposed legislation in order to stifle and eventually crush competition from non-native-owned lodges. Critics also say that the legislation’s conservation language is merely hiding what in truth is nationalistic and xenophobic protectionism, and that the bill provides BFFIA with legitimacy and an unending source of operating cash funded primarily by foreign anglers. But how much of this criticism is founded on fact, and how much is speculation? Is the evidence against BFFIA anecdotal, or does proof of wrongdoing exist? What do we know?

Contentious Election

On June 25, 2015, the BFFIA held its General Membership meeting, the highlight of which was a leadership election that would presumably determine whether the Association continued to support the proposed controversial legislation, which first appeared in emails to Bahamian guides and lodges and was posted on the government website on June 17. The Tribune, the island nation’s paper of record headquartered in Nassau, the capital, covered the BFFIA election and cited Cindy Pinder, an official of the rival Abaco Flyfishing Guides Association (AFFGA), as among the most vocal opponents of the legislation. (Read AFFGA’s position on the proposed legislation here.)

Pinder’s criticism has been withering and unrelenting. For example, she has described the recent BFFIA elections as a “dog and pony show” and has asserted that Smith and other board members intentionally delayed the General Meeting so that many BFFIA members, who had to catch planes back to their home islands, were unable to vote in the election. It is true that although the election was slated to be held between 11 AM and 4 PM, voting did not actually begin until two hours after the meeting was scheduled to be over. As a result of delays, dozens of members who attended the meeting intending to cast a vote had to leave before the election was actually held.

“The AFFGA does not recognize the BFFIA as a respected voice in the fly fishing industry,” says Pinder. “They do not represent us. Not a single one of our members was afforded the opportunity to vote at the AGM. Because of their manipulation of the voting process and their exclusionary leadership, we don’t want anything to do with the BFFIA.”  She also suggests that AFFGA is considering legal action against BFFIA.

Pinder is hardly alone: other stakeholders have also cried foul. Several bloggers and online media columnists and even The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) entered the fray within days of the first draft legislation appearing.  AFFTA released a statement that reads, in part: “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.”

The AFFTA statement continues:

“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.” (Read AFFTA’s statement in its entirety here.)

In the FlyTalk blog at Field & Stream online, Tim Romano wrote:

“That’s not to say I don’t have a vested interest from a business perspective in seeing the bill fail, too; I have friends that own lodges in the Bahamas. But in the end, the bill smells fishy, and I imagine somebody, somewhere is greasing the wheels. Sure, the proposed measures could be posturing, an attempt to get parts of the bill passed, but if passed, this law would be a bad deal for almost everybody involved save a few fat-cat officials.”

Sarah Grigg, writing for the blog Gink & Gasoline, described how even the internal politics of BFFIA seemed rigged for a specific result:

“Jason Franklin, a native Bahamian and co-owner of H2O Bonefishing in Freeport, served on the BFFIA Board prior to elections held at the group’s Annual General Meeting in Nassau on June 25th. The meeting was conducted in such a way that officer elections were held after half the voting members left on evening flights to their home islands. This caused division within BFFIA and the overall angling community. Despite paying dues, certain lodges were excluded from this vote, and others were entirely denied membership for not aligning with Mr. Smith’s divisive platform. Following the meeting, numerous groups withdrew support and disowned the organization entirely.”

Marshalling the Facts

According to BFFIA secretary Geneva Wilson, the association’s bylaws distinguish between two types of members—voting and nonvoting—and only those members who are designated as “professionals” fall into the voting category. Wilson continues, “We had 168 Professional Voting Members at the time of the June 25th AGM. 149 of them attended the AGM and registered, and 127 voted.”

The association’s bylaws also establish that “no business shall be transacted at any general meeting unless a quorum of voting members is present at the time when the meeting proceeds to business,” and that “25% of voting members present in person shall be a quorum.” As the association’s total membership is 229, the 127 members who voted in June clearly constituted a quorum according to BFFIA bylaws. The country’s Department of Labor, which acted as the independent third party election monitor for the vote, released its official results, which you can download here, on July 1.

A primary goal of the opposition to the bill was the defeat of Prescott Smith as BFFIA president. Results indicate, however, that Smith garnered 51 votes—more than any single candidate in his region. Had every one of the 22 members who registered to vote in the election but left before the vote was held voted against Smith and for his closest rival (Randy Thompson), it seems Smith still would have won reelection.  

Despite the apparent validity of the election and its outcome, questions remain. First, some BFFIA professional who believed they were members in good standing were told before the election that they would not be able to vote. One such association member is The Delphi Club, a fly fishing lodge in Rolling Harbour on Abaco Island. Shortly before the election, club manager Peter Mantle engaged in an email exchange with BFFIA secretary Wilson in which he was informed that he would not be able to vote because his business license did not have the words “bonefish lodge” on it. Mantle turned the matter over to his attorney, who assured Wilson in writing that both the association and the Bahamas Investment Authority had previously recognized The Delphi Club as a bonefishing lodge, and that Mantle would attend the association’s meeting with every intention of voting in the election. Ironically Mantle was among those who did not have the option to vote because he had to catch a scheduled flight home.

Second, some BFFIA members have charged that opponents of Prescott Smith and the proposed legislation waylaid them and pressed them to vote against him and the bill just moments before the election. Abaco Island guide Paul Pinder says that he and a group of other guides from the island “arrived in Nassau the morning of the AGM. When we stepped out of the terminal, there was [former BFFIA board member] Cheryl Bastian directing the guides to two waiting buses. We got on the buses with the idea that we were headed to the Hilton where the AGM was to be held.” According to Pinder, the group was driven to an entirely different building and told to disembark. “I thought the venue for the AGM had changed,” he continues, “so I got off the bus. We were then directed to a room and asked to take a seat.” Pinder says AFFGA official Cindy Pinder [no relation to him] then took control, telling the guides that she and others were putting together a group to run against Prescott and his supporters. Pinder says he and the other guides left the meeting when they realized the leaders’ intentions.

BFFIA Addresses the Issues

Because the BFFIA itself lies right at the center of this debate, I sent  a series of questions directly to re-elected association president Prescott Smith and his fellow board members. Here are my questions and their answers, as I received them (with only minor punctuation and capitalization edits made for clarity):

Q: Why is this legislation needed?

BFFIA: The Legislation is needed for several reasons: empowerment of local Bahamians; legitimize the guiding profession; heighten the need for protection and conservation of the flats and our fragile nursery systems throughout the Bahamas which feed the entire Western hemisphere; the additional protection of bonefish; protection of permit, tarpon, snook, stingray, and our national fish, the blue marlin; control of the illegal lodges run by second homeowners without government approvals etc.; prohibition of the mining in the flats to extract sand, calcium carbonate etc.

Q: I read in one of the Tribune articles that a “smear campaign” has been launched against your organization. Who is behind this campaign, and what would their goals be for doing such a thing?

BFFIA: The smear campaign and personal attacks are being launched by a small fraction of renegades—primarily Yellowdog Flyfishing Travel Company from Montana, Cindy Pinder of Abaco Flyfishing Guides Association, H20 Bahamas, Dan Vermillion, Oliver White, Cheryl Bastian of Swains Cay Lodge, and Benjamin Pratt of the Ministry of Tourism. They wanted to control the outcome of the board structure of BFFIA, the first grassroots association in our number one industry, at the June 25 AGM. Because things did not go as they had planned, they set out to discredit the voting results of the association, which was conducted by an independent body. 127 of the 149 Professional Members registered attending the AGM voted.

Q: Critics of this legislation say it is designed to do little more than protect local anglers and local lodge owners and to build in a minimum price for hiring guides, which could price the Bahamas out of the market. What is your response to this criticism?

BFFIA: It is sad that critics would see things that way. The idea of this legislation was to regulate the fly fishing industry because without laws we will eventually have chaos! Our main reasons are the protection of the flats and its species by conserving and improving the population of the fish, so they do not become depleted or made extinct by over fishing or destruction of their marine environment; and the implementation of a fishing license system, so that the funds can be used for conservation and a National Wardens Program to enforce the law. Also, for the first time in our country’s history, the honorable profession as a flats guide would be legally recognized. This would allow guides to have access to proper equipment and funding. How can such things take place if the profession does not have a legal foundation, similar to the medical or legal profession in America and other parts of the world? They all have a legal structure that allows them to lobby in the best interest of their industry. [This has] nothing to do with building in a minimum price for hiring a guide, but to ensure that anglers are not overcharged.

Q: The legislation calls for a “guide permit [license].” You’ve been quoted in the newspaper as saying that your organization should get a large portion of the fee raised to teach and certify the local guides. Please explain why your organization alone should be permitted to do this?  

BFFIA: In the Tribune, as it relates to the fishing license, the board suggested that a considerable or determinable portion of the funds collected by [the] government, say between 3%-5%, be given to BFFIA because of the unique geography of the Bahamas—unlike the USA or Canada where you can drive from one state to the other—and to assist with the following:

  • The education of the public and those engaged in recreational fly fishing with respect to the proper handling and care of the bonefish, tarpon, permit, and snook. The proper use of the flats, including the protection and conservation of the marine life and its environment, by its sustainable use in the best interest of the Bahamas and its sister countries.
  • To abolish injurious practices and establish a uniform code of ethics in the industry.
  • Support a mentoring program within our educational system to encourage a cadre of young Bahamians to enter the profession of fly-fishing guides and become stewards of our flats, as well as, to advance [sic], support educational and training projects, certificates and related programs and research by upgrading of the skills of current fly fishing guides and key local stakeholders in the industry.
  • To provide an instrument through which members may coordinate their efforts in handling matters of common concern.
  • To assist in the promotion and the marketing of local Guides and Lodges, locally and internationally.
  • To create and encourage the adoption of a national set of quality standards and ethics for the fly-fishing industry.
  • Improve the operations and profitability of local fly fishing lodges and facilities.

Q: What standards will be used to measure the guides for certification, and who will the instructors be?

BFFIA: We have an existing certification manual, which we are upgrading over the next few months to be used as a guideline for the certification. The guides in the Bahamas are and [are] expected to be the very best in the world when it comes to polling and casting in the saltwater environment, no matter if it is twenty-plus knots. So our standards would be high. Some of the standards would be:

  • Must hold a current Class B Captain License
  • Must be able to swim
  • To learn the history of the Bahamas fly fishing industry
  • To learn the Fisheries Regulation Act
  • To learn the elements of fly fishing equipment and tools and their proper usage
  • Required safety equipment, life jackets, and VHF Radio in flats boat
  • To identify fly patterns and for what flats species and basic fly-tying
  • Fly casting techniques and universal terms used
  • Bonefish, tarpon, permit, and snook biology and psychology
  • Outboard engine and boat maintenance and repairs
  • First aid & CPR procedures
  • Effective communication and customer relation skills
  • Business ethics
  • Proper guide attire, personal presentation, and grooming
  • 1-year apprenticeship with a certified guide
  • Require public liability insurance

The instructors will be made up of mainly professional certified guides from around the Bahamas, along with other experts from various backgrounds in the industry.

Q: Where can I get a copy of the guide standards or the criteria for the test?

BFFIA: Once approved by the board, it will be posted on the association’s website for viewing.

Q: Also, will there be a fee for guides who want to take this certification course, and if so how much will that be? Can they take the test more than once?

BFFIA: Yes, there will be an affordable fee, and the test can be taken more than once. Theoretical and practical tests will have to be taken.

Finally, I asked Prescott Smith why this issue was so important to stakeholders. Here is his response:

“I believe that true conservation is when local people of a country are able to use their environment in a sustainable way to support themselves and their families. I believe this would instill value and pride fostering the need for protection and proper use of their natural resources for generations to come. It is imperative that everyone understands that the nursery system and marine environment in the Bahamas is important to many countries in this region including [the United States of America], Canada, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Cuba, as well as many global companies that rely on its healthy marine environment.

“Beyond the rights and protection of the guides and local lodges from this proposed legislation, I am hopeful that it will be one of the greatest conservation success [sic] in the Western hemisphere by the protection of four flats species (bonefish, tarpon, permit, and snook), the largest bonefish flats on the planet, the third largest reef in the world, and the largest concentration of mangroves in the entire Western hemisphere.

“I wish that persons [could] look beyond all the sensationalism and misinformation and see a sovereign country just trying to protect and regulate its industry in the best interest of the Bahamas for generations to come, so it can be enjoyed by all for a very, very long time!”

The Government’s Position

A 2010 study (The Economic Impact of Flats Fishing in The Bahamas; Tony Fedler, Ph.D) found that $141 million was generated by flats fishing in the Bahamas. Because the pending legislation has the potential to dramatically affect flats fishing tourism, I directed a number of questions to Bahamian government figures through official channels.

First, I sent the following questions to the Hon. Alfred Gray, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources, and Local Government, who has publicly stated he recognizes BFFIA as the official organization that represents the fly fishing industry in the Bahamas.   

Q: Since no legislation has ever been passed regarding recreational flats fishing since the inception of your country, what was the reason behind allowing only 11 days for input and comments from the citizenry on such an important topic? If the time frame I have put forth here is wrong, please send me the correct time frame and instrument that was used to solicit input from the citizenry and industry stakeholders.

Q: All parties both in favor of and against this proposed legislation seem to favor stronger conservation measures. All parties also agree that poorly worded legislation could negatively affect the tourism industry, which is so critical to the local economy. Is your ministry considering doing some sort of study to determine which conservation needs pose the greatest threat to bonefish so those are addressed first in any proposed legislation?

Minister Gray did not respond to either of these questions.

Next, I submitted the following questions to Michael Braynen, director of the Department of Marine Resources:

Q: How many marine wardens are currently enforcing Bahamian conservation laws?

Q: What is your largest enforcement issue or concern?

Q: What year was your department founded?

Q: How many people including you work for the department?

Q: When was the last time fishing laws pertaining to recreational fishermen were enacted? (I have been told it was 1986, but I believe these laws pertain to commercial and not recreational fishing.)   

Director Braynen did not respond to any of these questions.

Finally, I submitted a series of questions to the Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe, head of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism:

Q: What is the Ministry of Tourism prepared to do to combat the view that fly fishing on your own is being discouraged with this new legislation?

Q: Why should customers book a trip to the Bahamas if they are uncertain where they can legally fish by themselves?

Q: Are you concerned that imposing a new fishing fee of $20 a day and requiring anglers to hire a Bahamian guide for at least $600 a day is going to make the Bahamas less competitive in the fly fishing market?

Unfortunately, Minister Wilchcombe did not respond to any of these questions.

I invited all three government officials to send me statements to clarify their official, individual positions on the legislation. None accepted my invitation.  

By its own admission, the BFFIA has stated that its primary interest in the proposed legislation is to protect Bahamians and their future employment as guides. They are also clearly concerned about unofficial, tax-dodging lodges run by non-Bahamian and second-home owners, as well as boat-based operations that use foreign guides. Undoubtedly if these operations  are permitted to exist, they could hurt legitimate lodges in a number of ways. After all, these lodges are not just avoiding taxes and failing to comply with government regulations; they are, in a sense, stealing from their neighbors, whether those neighbors are Bahamian-owned and operated lodges, or operations owned primarily by foreign interests.

Unsanctioned, unregulated fishing operations also easily operate outside of resource management rules. Meanwhile, BFFIA’s proposed conservation measures remain vague. Nor does there seem to be a clear mechanism for the collection, transfer and use of license-generated revenues, and BFFIA’s plans to tap into the revenue to the support the Bahamian guide community leave all decision making in the hands of one group, which itself may not have the support of all Bahamian guides.

The Battle for Bonefish and the Future of the Bahamas, Part 2” reviews the proposed legislation itself and how it might affect visiting anglers as well as foreign lodge owners. In particular, we examine the conservation issues facing the Bahamas, and how the proposed legislation purports to address them.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
 
Beau Beasley is an investigative conservation writer and the director of both the Texas and Virginia Fly Fishing festivals.
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  • Craig Dumesnil

    An in depth look at a complicated issue. Good job! I keep waiting for the tourism and real estate industries to weigh in. If vacationers and second home owners are prohibited from recreational fishing (with a license) then they will go elsewhere and the millions of dollars that flow into the Bahamian economy each year will be spent elsewhere.

    • Beau Beasley

      Thanks for your input Craig, I appreciate it. I’ll do my best to keep you updated in part II.

  • Stephen Vletas

    None of this is new, as the issue has been ongoing for years, and Prescott Smith has been at the root of it for years. A really in-depth view would include looking at Prescott’s background, history, and motivation. Calling him self-serving is being kind, but in the end this issue has nothing to do with Prescott Smith.
    The idea of a fishing license began back in the early nineties, and we proposed it before Prescott even knew what bonefishing was, before he could cast, before he had his lodge at Stafford Creek. The idea of a fishing license is a good one, one we’ve promoted for years, and yes, it would be a good source of revenue for the Bahamas to be used for conservation, enforcement, or however the country sees fit.

    A reasonably priced ($20 per day is definitely on the high side) daily bonefishing, or flats fishing license for Bahamians and foreigners should be implemented like it is here in the United States, and in many other countries (will use Argentina as an example below). Bahamians would pay a much lower fee than foreigners, and have the ability to buy an inexpensive yearly license, same as happens in the U.S., Argentina and many other countries.

    Foreigners would have the option to pay a daily licensee fee, or a discounted fee for a week or two weeks, and also have the option to purchase a yearly license at a reasonable rate.
    After all, in Prescott and his supporters are really serious about conservation, then that has to apply to his fellow Bahamians as they put much more pressure on the fishery resources than do foreigners. Ask Prescott his opinion on that, and if he doesn’t agree then what does that say about his motivations.
    Also, in the United States, Argentina, and in all of the other countries we fish in around the world (over thirty countries), once a foreigner buys a fishing license, then they can fish on their own. There is no requirement to hire a guide, and guides in those countries are free to set their own rates. Business needs to be that, business, competitive, and if the legislation dictates a minimum rate to hire a guide that would make the Bahamas worse than Cuba as even Cuba doesn’t have that regulation.
    We know many top guides and quality lodges who compete on price point, and they do well, garnering their part of the market accordingly. Why does Prescott and or the government think they know how to run those businesses better than those guides and lodge owners? That is ludicrous and insulting.
    $600 minimum guide fee, and Prescott says that’s making sure foreigners aren’t overcharged? Seriously, that is absurd. Again, most guides charge less than $600/day now, so that minimum would substantially raise guide rates, and price many foreign anglers out of the market. That would not only be a loss to the guides, but a loss to all tourism related businesses—hotels, lodges, restaurants, shops, etc.—across all the islands. And some of the smaller islands would suffer the most.
    Regarding the BFFIA manual and their supposed guidelines/rules for guides and lodge owners….many of them make sense, and are already being implemented, as they were created and enacted by responsible top professional guides with many years more experience than Prescott, and with lodge owners with far superior business experience than the BFFIA board. Also, much of this rhetoric by the BFFIA is condescending and insulting as it assumes top professional guides working for years in the Bahamas need to be told how to work and do their business. And Prescott calling people who disagree with him “renegades”, really, who’s the renegade? And FYI, it’s not a small group.

    Regarding Argentina and conservation…..this is a good comparison to the Bahamas because Argentina’s government is very nationalistic, often self-serving/self-defeating, protectionist, xenophobic, etc…….yet even a disaster of a country like Argentina recognizes that foreign tourism is important, and they actually treat foreigners equal to citizens in the area of fishing and other tourism related activities. You buy your license as a foreigner and off you go, fishing on your own, obey the laws, respect the environment.
    Obvio.
    OK, sticking on conservation, lets be real. Fly fishers, especially foreign fly fishers (non-Bahamians in this case), are conservationists at heart. They would be happy to buy a reasonably priced fishing license, practice catch and release (they do that now, only Bahamians keep bonefish), support conservation, and the fact is, their impact on the flats is minimal, and even less in the back-country creeks and nursery areas. Of course Prescott and company know this, but I don’t see them ever telling this obvious truth.
    So that brings it all back to motivation of the BFFIA leadership. If you really want a fair fishing license, and to protect the fisheries, that’s great, all for it, and there are easy fair ways to do that.
    Expensive fishing licenses, rules that put BFFIA in charge of guides and their certification (apprenticeship for a year with a certified guide, hahaha, what will they charge for that and who gets the money), and nebulous talk of conservation where it doesn’t apply…..well that’s another story, and hey, Beau, you should look into that. Answers are easy and obvious.
    In any case, whatever happens happens, and the country will have to deal with the consequences, but we hope our many guide friends and business owner friends don’t end up suffering after devoting years of their life to careers in professional fly fishing and tourism, only to find out that BFFIA knows best.
    Stephen and Kim Vletas
    Authors: Bahamas Fly-Fishing Guide

    P.S. Beau, any questions, let us know.

    • Bjorn Stromsness

      Exactly.

    • Beau Beasley

      Stephen, thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this important issue. I see that you are an author about fly fishing in the Bahamas so clearly you know your way around the fishing aspects of the islands!! You raise some good points, and I plan to address them in Part II. This issue is complicated and requires some background so folks know how we got to where we are. People who read this may have no knowledge of the nation at all, thus the historical context.

      When I write a piece about something that is complicated, I try to do my homework very thoroughly. I really don’t count on what people tell me, but instead what I can prove. Sadly many who write about thorny issues like this are quick to take sides and prove their point. That’s not my style, I tend to stick to facts and do my research from primary sources. I also give everyone “their say” regardless of what I think of their position. What I think personally on a matter is irrelevant to the reader. As the old saying goes “just the facts mam, just the facts”, and that is what I aim to do with all my investigative work. Readers today are barraged with opinions, what they want is third party verifiable facts so they can make an informed decision. This is why I and others appreciate MidCurrent so much as they do their best to provide solid information which readers can count on.

      While I did quote Mr. Smith in this article, the positions that I made public here regarding my questions came directly from BFFIA’s Board of Directors and were only made public after the board voted to make them public. Again, I have written documentation that these are the board’s decisions, not Mr. Smith’s alone. While I did communicate with Mr. Smith primarily, I got written communication from 4 other board members as well regarding this issue. To the best of my knowledge not a single board member objected to making their positions public.

      I agree that no angler I know nor none I communicated with through BFFIA are opposed to a fishing license. Ms. Cindy Pinder, the VP of the ABFFGA, who was very instrumental in providing me primary sources for information (for which I am very grateful) is also in favor of a fishing license if it goes towards conservation. While I can’t speak for ABFFGA as I am not a member, I got the impression from her that her whole association also supports a license if the funds are used appropriately…..and there in lies the rub.

      As far as conservation goes go, you’ll be pleased to know that Mr. Smith and BFFIA agree with you 100% that locals must participate in meaningful conservation efforts. They readily admit that locals must embrace protecting the natural resources and agree further than netting bonefish is a significant problem.

      You put forth the idea that others have made attempts to have the government instigate a fishing license. Can you provide me documentation of this? Also could you please let me know when and to which government official you approached with your written proposal? I would be very interested in seeing these documents. If you could provide them to me it would be helpful as I must buttress any statement I write regarding these types of issues with third party verification rather than verbal assertions. Again, I have no doubt others such as yourself, do care a great deal about the issues presented here. If you have made formal attempts to bring this matter before the legislature I would like to see it an acknowledge you for what you or others have done formally.

      Thanks for you input Steven, I really appreciate it. Best Beau

      ,

      • Stephen Vletas

        Hello Beau,
        Thanks for this reply. First, let me say that I understand and agree with your approach to be as unbiased as possible in writing an article of this nature, or any article for that matter. Would be great if our overall political process could be like that.
        In that regard, let me give you a little background and some facts you can check. I apologize that written documentation will be lacking, but I’ll try to direct you to sources where you might get that.
        I am the author of, The Bahamas Fly-Fishing Guide, and we have sold out two editions, three printings, so the book is out of print, but due to high demand I’m doing an update for a Kindle edition. The book is the definitive guide for fly fishing and fly fishing travel to the Bahamas. Don’t take my word for that, but ask around, and see what people like Dick Brown, Flip Pallot and other authorities say about the book and my knowledge of fly fishing in the Bahamas. Also, for you own background, you should find a copy and read it as it includes a lot of history. I still get about 50 emails a week from readers and anglers asking my advice on where to go to fish, stay, have fun in the Bahamas, and which guides to fish with. I answer them all.
        I began developing my fly fishing experience in the Bahamas in 1989. In 1990, with Andy Smith and Charlie Neymour (now two of the best, most respected and experienced fly fishing guides in the Bahamas) I began the independent guide movement. Until then, there were only a handful of independent guides, everyone else worked in the lodge system. Legendary guides like Ivan Neymour, Rudy Bell, Bill and Errol Braynen, Charlie Smith, Joe Cleare, O’Donald Macintosh, Bonefish Foley, and a few others became friends of mine, and they all supported the independent guide movement in one way or another. The idea was simple; turn being a bonefish guide into a profession where each guide owned his own boat, adhered to professional standards that we began defining, was educated about customer relations and tourism, and overall, so that each guide ran was his own business; becoming an independent contractor/entrepreneur.
        Needless to say, the lodge owners were not thrilled with me, or with some of the guides working with me. At first they banned us from their lodges, but no problem, I found guest houses, hotels and other lodges willing to accept us. In less than two years, we had such a higher return client rate due to high satisfaction with these top developing guides, that all the lodges came to me and asked that we start booking clients to stay with them, while being able to fish with our group of independent guides. Also, many guides approached us to to join our team. In a way, this goes right to one of the main disagreements I have with the current BFFIA board and the proposed legislation.
        All those lodge owners back then finally realized that it made more economic sense, and benefited their communities more, to have clients staying in their lodge, paying for room and meals, and then essentially fishing on their own….with guides not working for them, or just on their own wading the flats.
        Over the years, many guest houses and lodges have sprung up on all the islands catering just to this market….the market of DIY anglers who occasionally book a guide also. Large hotels like Stella Maris on Long Island cater to this market, and there are many others. It makes no economic or scientific sense to try to ban anglers from coming to the Bahamas, staying in a locally owned lodge or hotel, and fishing on their own (and buying a fishing license.) Clearly, anyone interested in really understanding this point can see the BFFIA bias here.
        Stepping back to the history…..in 1991 with a lot of help from Bob Hyde at Peace & Plenty on Exuma, we held the first meeting of independent guides, which was a precursor to the Guides Associations and certification programs. That was when we really began developing standards for guides, though separately I always had my own (and my company, Westbank Anglers) standards for independent guides who worked with us, and that was based on many years of professional guiding in the States. Some of the guides had good boats of their own, others we helped buy their boats and they paid us back from bookings. It was a great expanding movement, and eventually we had independent guides working with us on all the islands where it made sense to bonefish; meaning where clients could have a fun and enjoyable experience and want to go back.
        With over 50 guides working with us, it was a lot of work. We had to keep in touch with all the guides, do the bookings with them, and separately book the lodges or hotels or guest houses where they would stay, coordinate with our independent taxi drivers (who also loved working with us), etc. Most agents back then only booked the lodge programs because it was easier, they made more money, and also they didn’t have the ability maintain independent guide relations, maintain standards, etc. That’s not taking away from any agent as there were many good ones, just saying we used a different approach and it was simple……we believed that the most important thing was the client/angler being able to fish with the best possible guide no matter where they stayed, and we believed in giving the guides the ability to step up professionally and in essence run their own business.
        At times this caused conflict with some guides who didn’t want to meet our standards, or who wanted to charge a rate we felt was not competitive. And that was fine, as really, that was the point. Each guide could decide how he wanted to work, be his own boss, and we could either work together by mutual understanding, or not.
        It was a great system that served thousand of anglers and created lots of work for many guides for many years until we sold out of our business in 2002.
        And all during that time, we worked with the guides and with the Ministry of Tourism and others to make bonefishing a good sustainable business for Bahamians across all the islands. If you look back at the results, and the growth in the industry from 1990 through 2002, the results speak for themselves.
        Now some specifics:
        Here is the BFFIA answer to one of your questions:
        “The smear campaign and personal attacks
        are being launched by a small fraction of renegades—primarily Yellowdog
        Flyfishing Travel Company from Montana, Cindy Pinder of Abaco Flyfishing
        Guides Association, H20 Bahamas, Dan Vermillion, Oliver White, Cheryl
        Bastian of Swains Cay Lodge, and Benjamin Pratt of the Ministry of
        Tourism. They wanted to control the outcome of the board structure of
        BFFIA, the first grassroots association in our number one industry, at
        the June 25 AGM. Because things did not go as they had planned, they set
        out to discredit the voting results of the association, which was
        conducted by an independent body.”

        This statement is false in every way. Benjamin Pratt has been with the Ministry of Tourism since I can remember. We often talked with him and worked with him to help promote bonefishing in the Bahamas and much of the advertising and promotional success the industry achieved was due to Mr. Pratt’s advocacy. Beau, Mr. Pratt should be able to provide you with the type of documentation about written proposals, standards, manuals, etc. that we all worked on back in the 1990s. There were manuals for standards and guide certification. As I said in my first post, none of this is new. BFFIA calling themselves “the first grassroots association in our number one industry” is ludicrous and an insult to the many guides, lodge owners, and people like us who began this whole thing as I said above, back in 1990 and 1991. Check it out.
        Cindy Pinder and the Pinder bonefishing family on Abaco, great people, who have served many satisfied anglers over the years and who have made Green Turtle Cay a better place. H20 Bahamas, wow, one of the best bonefishing operations in the islands, super professional in developing quality guides and solid management for over ten years. Yellow Dog, one of the best travel companies in the United States, and all dedicated to providing the highest level of quality fly fishing to their clients, in the Bahamas and around the world. And these guys love the Bahamas, they are totally pro-conservation, and they work closely with all their represented lodges and guides. Dan Vermillion and Oliver White, both well-known fly fishers, agents, lodge owners, businessmen, dedicated to high quality fly fishing. And Cheryl Bastion, really? She’s done a great job of improving things on Mangrove Cay and creating more options for young guides to work there.
        Calling these people renegades, more than anything, demeans the BFFIA and shows their lack of respect for people who have dedicated themselves to the Bahamas bonefishing industry. It’s one thing to have a difference of opinion, but another to put down quality people like the people in this group.
        Also, a point of fact….Benjamin Pratt was assigned the job by the Ministry of Tourism to work with the BFFIA and help them get started. Everything was fine until Mr. Pratt didn’t agree with the newly elected board and he was shoved out and now called a renegade. Same for Cheryl Bastion, who was working with BFFIA until she didn’t want to agree with Prescott Smith on the DIY issue, and she was out, labeled a renegade. Those are easy facts to check.
        Further, Beau, you should ask for the BFFIA board minutes going back three years or so. That was when the board took on the point of business of creating their manual for the guiding profession, and for many guides included in that process, that was the most important point of business they needed to achieve to really move forward. As a matter of process that order of business was supposed to be completed, but to the chagrin of many guides and BFFIA supporters, Prescott Smith brought up these other new contentious issues about foreigners, and the manual was set aside and is still not complete. Again, easy to check this out and reading the minutes should be interesting.

        OK, sorry, this is longer than I intended and it could be a lot longer as I actually do know over one hundred current Bahamian guides, most signed up with BFFIA, and I know the current board members and their agendas, business situations, etc, so anyone saying I don’t know something, or “Who am I to talk”, should think that over more carefully.
        I’ll say again, none of this is new, and really, it’s not complicated unless people choose to make it so for their own reasons.

        Summary:
        1) There should be a fishing license with a reasonable daily fee, discount for a week or two weeks, plus a seasonal license option. All this should be for foreigners and for Bahamian nationals. Fees for foreigners should be higher than for Bahamians, and fees for Bahamians should be low enough that it’s accessible to everyone. Part of the license process has to be educational, so when anyone buys the license it includes a set of rules and regulations for the area or areas where they can fish.
        Also, the licenses must be convenient to purchase through a registered license agency. So lodges, tourism offices, local stores or other venues would apply to be a license agent, and then be granted the right to sell licenses. (FYI….what is written in this point 1 was our proposal to the government for several years in the 1990s, and it was never adopted)

        2) Conservation is important, vital actually. Fees from the licenses can go to maintaining the license system and collection of fees through sales of licenses, and conservation projects like improving and protecting habitat. We have many programs like that here in Wyoming and in other states. It can also go for enforcement, and habitat monitoring. In the end the government has to discuss their priorities and allocate funds as they see fit.
        3) Being a fly fishing guide, as a profession, is important, and it is already the fact for many Bahamian guides, with or without the BFFIA. Still, BFFIA should finish their manual, have it reviewed and commented on by guides, lodge owners and other interested parties for objectivity, and then the manual should be used to promote the profession of guiding, and not used to give the profession artificial protection from the normal business environment.
        4) Minimum guide fees should not exist. Each independent guide should charge whatever rate they feel they deserve, and the market will prove them right or wrong. Anglers don’t need the BFFIA to “protect” them. In the world of the internet its easy to shop around and easy to get help in deciding where to go and who to fish with.
        5) Any angler, foreign or national, should be allowed to fish on their own without a guide, with the purchase of a fishing license. This is the case in every country I’ve ever fished; over thirty countries. Anglers fishing on their own, DIY, are not harming the fishery, and really, they can’t even access the areas of the habitat that matter most. Common sense people. And if BFFIA really wants successful conservation, they should be courting foreign anglers, not dismissing them. It would be so easy to start a “Bahamas Flats Fishing Conservation” non-profit and raise tons of money from foreigners to fund conservation projects all over the islands.
        6) Illegal bonefishing operations…..if they exist, and are outside the law, right, they should be shut down in conformance with the law.

        Finally, Beau, I find it interesting, and not surprising, that the government officials you contacted did not answer, though I know I could get answers at least from Mr. Braynen and Mr. Wilchcombe through my guide friends. That said, I talked with ten of my Bahamian guide friends today to get their updated views, and every one of them was against the BFFIA approach (all are voting members of BFFIA). My points above were created by my opinion and the input from these guides. Four of the guides, all independently, told me a variation of the following story.
        They went to the famous, contentious, BFFIA meeting to give their ideas and thoughts to Minister Alfred Gray, were told the time they could do that by BFFIA board members, and when they arrived Minister Gray had already left. The BFFIA had presented their views to the Minister and then told the Minister there was nothing more to hear. Needless to say, these guides were unhappy and frustrated, and disillusioned with the process. This is anecdotal, obviously, but I would suggest you talk to some of the guides themselves on the different islands to see what they have to say, and why.

        You wrote that Prescott Smith said the following: “I wish that persons [could] look beyond all the sensationalism and
        misinformation and see a sovereign country just trying to protect and
        regulate its industry in the best interest of the Bahamas for
        generations to come, so it can be enjoyed by all for a very, very long
        time!”

        The Bahamas bonefishing industry went on for years before Prescott Smith joined it, and has gone on since then in spite of him with good progress, good growth, and without much drama or sensationalism. If Mr. Smith had a practical, reasonable approach, all of this sensationalism he is creating would not exist. There isn’t really that much disagreement on the real issues, and it could all be decided fairly, and objectively in due course, if Mr. Smith would let it be so.

        Thanks Beau. Good luck with your investigations and with the article. Any questions, let me know.
        Best,
        Stephen

        • Geneva Wilson

          Steve,

          Hogwash! I am certain you do not know all of the Board Members! Again you run on with diatribes, given dates and names to try to give it validity.

          Also great way to get free advertising for your book.

          Please provide us with the links or documents that evidence what you have claimed.

          I agree with your “There isn’t really that much disagreement on the real issues”. For your information, it appears that Prescott is NOT creating any sensationalism but you and a small Group of Renegades and misinformed bloggers are wreaking the unnecessary havoc in the industry and personally attacking Prescott.

          I

          • Stephen Vletas

            Hey, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time….Hogwash! Love it, still smiling about that robust and insightful comment. The only thing you seem really certain of is that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, a renegade and misinformed. Good luck with attitude. Sean Leadon is right, this has been blown out of proportion. I’ve given specific comments and suggestions, provided some context. Reasonable people can read them, agree, disagree, take them or leave them. Bahamians will work this issue out one way or another. Y bueno, no mas chica. Chau.

        • Beau Beasley

          Stephen,

          Thanks so much for your thoughtful input. I can see you care a great deal about the Bahamas, and just like the locals you want to protect the fragile environment where bonefish call home. I believe all parties want that, but have different goals and objectives in how that should be accomplished.

          I have spent a great deal of time researching this topic and I hope Part II answers many of your concerns and questions. The topic is too broad, and the bill to unknown to speak on every point so I have to just hit the highlights of what I think anglers want to know. I will cover issues concerning DIY fishing, conservation and the bill’s likely progression.

          I would however like to address one point relevant to BFFIA and in particular Mr. Smith. I have thus far found no evidence what so ever which indicates that Mr. Smith has done anything illegal, or that he is acting on his own. While he is taking a great deal of the slings and arrows concerning this issue, such is the case with anyone in a leadership position where strong opinions prevail. I have communicated with multiple BFFIA board members and they have the same outlook that Mr. Smith does and voted overwhelmingly to make their answers to my questions public thus far.

          It is also worth nothing that while many of his detractors are vehemently opposed to his leadership style and goals, Mr. Smith was none the less reelected as President to the BFFIA board and by a wide margin.

          Stay tuned for part II, and please pass along your thanks to MidCurrent for taking up this issue in such a high profile and impartial manner.

          Best Beau

          • Stephen Vletas

            Hello Beau,
            Thanks for this note. I have reread all my posts and can’t see anywhere that I’ve said or implied that Mr. Smith has done anything illegal. I have no doubt that there is corruption in the Bahamas, as there is a most countries, but I do not attribute this to Mr. Smith. For the record let me say that I do not believe Mr. Smith has done anything illegal, or that he is involved in corruption. For me to believe that I’d have to see serious, objective proof, and I’d still have a hard time believing it.
            Yes, guilty of calling him self-serving, which is entirely different, and I have apologized to him for saying that. So hope this is clear.
            And Mr. Smith is not acting on his own. Pretty clear that he has some vocal supporters, even though some of those supporters, in my view, are hurting his cause. That said, his core group is small, and his additional BFFIA supporters are a minority of the overall stakeholders with skin in this game. The numbers are simply the numbers and easy to add up if you look at all stakeholders. That doesn’t diminish Mr. Smith’s beliefs or position on these important issues, but it should put them in perspective. There are economic studies done by impartial researchers to support this.
            So yes, thanks to MidCurrent, and thanks Beau for your efforts. Looking forward to reading Part II.

            • Beau Beasley

              Stephen,

              Thanks for the follow up, and for caring. It is obvious to anyone who reads your post that you are well informed, and understands what the Bahamas is about from a fishing standpoint. I appreciate your input.

              I also want to congratulate you on your outreach to others that don’t hold your view point. Just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to call you out specifically, but was addressing the issue overall of Prescott being cast as someone who has done something illegal. If I came off that way, I apologize for the confusion.

              I am finishing up Part II today, and it should go out on MidCurrents Wednesday’s new service.

              Thanks again for speaking up on the issue, I think you made some good points and I hope I address your concerns and those of others in Part II.

              Best Beau

              • Stephen Vletas

                Thanks Beau. Looking forward to reading Part II.
                Best,
                Stephen

    • Geneva Wilson

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is great to be allowed freedom of speech.

      Is this the same Stephen Vletas who was one of the founders of Westbank Anglers? Who reneged on an agreement with the Pinders Brothers in Grand Bahama? I think Beau should speak to them also! Maybe it may shed some light on your history.

      How can you speak to the mindsets and conservationist’s spirits of All Fly Fishers? Have you spoken to ALL Guides throughout the Bahamas who will tell you differently?

      There are a lot of things that have been around before we were born or when we knew about bonefishing, but it takes the right individuals and mindsets at the time to implement them. Yes, I do agree an in depth look at Prescott’s history will clearly show a Nationalist who has put Country first before self or his business. Since you make such disparaging remarks about him, show us the evidence! Why should one go through unwarranted abuses from persons like you and YES A SMALL GROUP OF RENEGADES, if he is self driven??!!! Show us where Prescott or BFFIA or the Government is advocating a minimum Guide Fee of $600.00? Who are you to speak about BFFIA’s Certification Manual which is still in draft form, not finalized and approved by the Board?

      Also, do you know All the BFFIA’s Board Members to speak of their
      experiences? If you have comments on the proposed Legislation, the same
      way BFFIA and hundreds of others have done, send your recommendations
      to the Ministry of Marine Resources at fisheries@bahamas.gov.bs.

      Really, your haranguing is more condescending and insulting to persons who truly understand and want what is in the best interest of the Bahamas and the Bahamian People.

      • Stephen Vletas

        Hello Geneva,
        Wow, you have the same passion Prescott does about defending your point of view, so I can respect that, but as Chris Miller has written, that passion can cause you more trouble than its worth. And as Prescott’s friend, you should know who I am, and should be better informed about me and my history on Andros and in the bonefishing industry around all the islands….but you seem not to be.
        I’m glad you brought up the Pinder Brothers and Grand Bahama as that was an interesting and relevant issue to this discussion. The Pinder Brothers, especially David and William, were well-known guides at Deepwater Cay. A Deepwater client, Jim something (forget is last name), recruited them to start their own business, and to be the guides at the newly open Pelican Bay Resort. Jim contacted us to start booking them, and I loved the idea, wanted to promote the Pinders and we did that. Westbank was excited to be able to promote them and book our clients to fish with them, but we never had an agreement with the Pinders, so you have that wrong. Jim began the program at Pelican with David and William, and their brothers Jeffrey and Joseph and one other guide but I don’t think he was a Pinder. In any case, we started booking them in a serious way, and taking a number of hosted trips to fish with them, from our stores in Jackson, Dallas and Houston, so we were very committed to the Pinders as guides for our clients. Our Houston store manager, Andy Packmore, especially loved the Pinders, so we were very upset when the Pinders decided to boycott Pelican Bay, over a dispute with Pelican Bay, not a dispute with us……with the result being the Pinders wouldn’t fish with clients of ours who had paid months in advance and were about to show up for their trip. I personally appealed to the Pinders to fish the clients, not “leave them on the dock”, not punish the clients for their dispute with Pelican. I promised I’d help them with their issues with Pelican, support them as independents if they left, but asked that they fish the clients, honor the clients. But they left and didn’t fish the clients. So the people who suffered were the anglers. You think that’s fair or right? I don’t. And as a lodge owner, what would Prescott’s position be? All the Pinders had to do was make it right for the clients and then we would have supported them in any way possible. But they didn’t, and for me, that meant I could not trust them to honor future commitments to clients, so I chose not to do business with them any more. I’d make the same decision again. So yes, Beau should talk to the Pinders, and as many other guides as he can for his article, and you Geneva, need to work on your knowledge base.
        And maybe I do to based on what you said about the $600 minimum fee. I got that number from Beau’s article, from a question he asked the government, that the government didn’t answer.
        So if there is no plan in the legislation or in what you’re advocating for a $600 minimum guide fee, that’s great news. Please confirm that I’ll happily stand corrected.
        You’ve also thrown around the word “misinformation” a lot, so again, if you can be specific and dispel any misconceptions, that would be great.
        I’ll tell you right now the biggest issue for me, and for most people I know who are against the BFFIA position and the proposed legislation, is the “perceived/believed” position of no DIY, no fishing without a guide. If you read Chris Miller’s letter and my response, you’ll see the same question there. If Prescott can put it in writing, what Chris Miller said, that you all are not against DIY fishing, and you are not advocating that foreign anglers have to fish with a guide, then we’re totally cool. Let me know if that’s the case.
        Regarding the the famous manual, that’s been going on practically forever, and in its current iteration with BFFIA for at least three years. I hope you can finish it soon, and if it’s reasonable and objective and professional, I’ll be one of your biggest supports in advocating the profession of Bahamian Fly Fishing Guides…..just like I have advocated for that and supported that since 1990.
        Take a deep breath, Geneva. Suerte, Stephen

        • Geneva Wilson

          Hmmm! Again you play the fiddle with words. Believe me I have done my homework on YOU in Andros, several other islands, and with a few of your fellow Americans. So may I suggest that you take a very deep breath and let that “die” there.

          If the Pinder Brothers wish to respond to you, its their prerogative but I do not believe a word you have said.

          The BFFIA has given their recommendations on the proposed legislation. It is clear you have not taken the time to read it, as it states our position on Unguided Anglers (UGA).

          As for the manual, kindly reference where it has been going on forever, since you appear to know so much, as to what is happening in the inner sanctum of BFFIA. By the way, I cannot find anything where you have advocated for and supported the profession of Bahamian Fly Fishing Guides since 1990, or reached out to any of the Government Ministers concerned during that time. DON’T JUST TALK! SHOW IT!

          You say a lot of things with no substantiated facts. I quote with Mr Beasley, “just the facts man, just the facts”. ENOUGH TALK! JUST SHOW US THE FACTS!

          • Stephen Vletas

            Geneva,
            Good luck with your process. Hope it works out for you and all Bahamians.
            Veremos.

        • Bjorn Stromsness

          My read is that there could be a DIY ban in certain islands, and other islands could have specific areas set up for DIY.

          “Unguided Anglers (UGA): – To zone areas for Anglers with a Fishing License to fish without the assistance of a Certified Guide. (At their own risk and accepting full liability). These zoned areas must be assigned with consultation with the Local Guides and Lodges on each island because of their unique geography and usage placed on a rotation schedule to prevent overfishing .e.g. if an island has 3 zoned Unguided Anglers’ (UGA) flats one in rotation should be closed every 6 or 9 months. ”

          From one way of looking at this, this could be saying other islands would be banned all together.

          “Islands like Long Island, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Exuma, Acklins and Crooked Island need special protection because of their the geography, the roads are constructed on the side of the islands directly on the flats, which exposes and makes the fishery very vulnerable for abuse to over fishing. UGA, because of the easy access, should not be allowed to fish these islands especially due to the limited flats, increased wading traffic and the already applied pressure on the fishery to avoid the already depletion of the fish population.”

          So, all the “we aren’t banning DIY” is pretty disingenuous. Those quotes above are from BFFIA’s own proposals.

          • Stephen Vletas

            Hello Bjorn,
            When I initially heard about this legislation and super short comment period I was traveling and really just thought it best to let people currently in the industry deal with it. I still think that but a few days ago more people emailed me asking me to comment and talk about some of the history of this issue that’s been going on since the 90s, so this is nothing new. I also want to say that current laws on the books, that I agree with, are not being enforced, so actually that would be a good start as opposed to this legislation….for a long time its been illegal for non-Bahamians to be guides, for non-licensed homes to be lodges, for mother boats to operate without proper authorizations….these laws should be enforced, otherwise, how will new laws be enforced.
            I have to admit to only reading the actual legislation recently, and I was going to make specific comments to the government, but then I found Perk Perkins of Orvis had already submitted his comments to the government, and I agree and support every comment and suggestion Mr. Perkins made. Nothing more for me to add.
            I find it interesting that people like Geneva Wilson didn’t mention Orvis, or AFFTA (they also made strong comments against the legislation) in the “small group of renegades” they rant on about being against the legislation (or maybe I missed them being included in the “small group of renegades.”) Sorry for repeating the phrase but its such a comical sound bite for a hack political campaign….and in today’s news, a small group of renegades…..

            OK, thanks for pointing out this UGA language that you say is in the BFFIA proposal, but to be clear, that is not in the draft legislation. The Abaco Guides Association has also made their recommendations to the government in their own proposal, but of course, the Abaco Association is part of the “small group of renegades” Uh oh.
            And yes, pretty disingenuous of BFFIA, but to be fair, that disingenuousness only applies to a few people, and not to the membership at large. Maybe more reasonable minds will prevail, and if not, lo que sea.

            • Alex A.

              Dear Bjorn & Stephen,

              After reading all the comments and observing how you both were tko’d by this Geneva Wilson and Shawn Leadon, it appears that you are now back grasping at straws.

              I took the liberty of reading Bjorn’s blog and like Ms. Wilson, will also take a quote from it on “DIY”:

              “If you fish out of lodge anyway, and a great number of people do that, none of this will really impact you. You almost certainly would have fewer people on the flats and a place like Long Island, where the DIY pressure is pretty high, might see some slightly improved fishing”

              I agree with Ms. Wilson’s “Equivocator”, Bjorn, you are the last person to speak on this country’s DIY.

              Stephen, it’s interesting how you “back paddle. I can also say that you use a lot of words like a “bucket full of holes”. They hold no water and you have not been able to substantiate hardly anything you’ve written beyond the promotion of your book and using this as a platform to launch yourself. It’s obvious that you are being used by, as they’re called here, “a small group of renegades” as their voice. That’s fine, as long as you speak from a factual platform, and not just with conjectures.

              Beau Beasley’s Article is well articulated, adheres to the facts and lends its voice to all sides. And to those of us reading it, I would think with “more reasonable minds” do not care for your sensationalism and diatribes and prefer to have and deal with the facts to draw our own intelligent conclusions.

              My hats off to Mr. Chris Miller. You both can learn a lot from his approach.

    • Prescott Smith

      Dear Stephen and All

      Firstly Stephen to say I’m self serving definitely shows you don’t know me at all. You may know of me and we have met several times over the years on your trips to Andros and fly fishing shows. I have never fished you nor have a personal relationship.
      My primary intent for Stafford Creek Lodge being built was to help to bring flats conservation education to our Leaders and the need to come up with an alternative sustainable development model, rather than Cruise ships and 500 room hotels throughout the Bahamas.
      I know this is a hot topic for many Americans and other persons form around the world, but you have to take a closer look at your views on what real conservation is. We as Bahamians don’t want to end up on Reservations with Casinos like the native Americans in your country. Real conservation can only takes place if the local people are empowered to use their local environment in a sustainable way. As you are now aware from Shawn, many local lodge owners are not able to make their loan repayments.
      I know there are many Americans and others from around the world who share the need and understand the importance for locals to be empowered with dignity to support their families, in that way they themselves become stewards of their environment, realizing that if we don’t’ take care of it, it will not take care of us.
      I would hope many fair-minded Americans who believe in Equality open their minds to understand what this issue is really truly about, as many persons just think this is about stopping them from fishing on their own and a Guide only wanting them to fish from his boat. The issue at hand is much greater than that. This is would be the first industry in Our country that the locals have an opportunity to build and become real owners in their number one industry, Tourism. We don’t have a say in the commercial Tourism Industry, We have no real controls in Offshore banking and the list goes on. How can you truly protect one of the greatest fishery and nursery system in the entire western world, if the locals are herded up on reservations only to pole a boat until the next Cruise ship spot needs to be dredged, or the next Calcium Mining operation is ready to open.
      Bahamians are simply asking to develop the kind of conservation model that truly works, and not twist it when it is convenient to make another dollar.
      I reached out to Bjorn from Bonefish on the Brain, and he decided to block me and take the same path of opinions rather than facts. Sarah Griggs as well decided to put a twist on her interview with Board Members to paint a false picture of what is happening in The Bahamas. It was fortunate for us to have to have the foresight to record Sarah’s interview.

      Finally, we are not Anti-Anglers fishing on their own, as some persons enjoy fishing by themselves and can’t take the boat pounding trips. We must understand that if we over fish and destroy areas with limited resources, then that means flats fishing will go away and major Developments will move in. Certain Islands need special protections. We cannot just think ONLY about today and tomorrow is somebody else’s problem.

      • Stephen Vletas

        Dear Prescott,
        Thank you for taking the time to write to me (and others). I appreciate it, and in my view much better to have this sort of direct communication as it would be a way to find the solutions you feel so strongly about.

        For the sake of better communication, I apologize to you for using the term self-serving about you as others have, and will refrain from doing it again. I do think, however, that your current manner of expressing your vision is getting in the way of you achieving your goals, and I agree with most of your goals, always have. You can disagree with this, but please think about that. Also, the rhetoric like “small group of renegades” is hurting your cause. You should apologize for that and have your group stop using that label.

        Now I’m going to contradict your memory stated in your first paragraph, so please think about this. We met at the Andros Town airport when you were just getting out of the Defense Force, and you asked for my help to get started in bonefishing. Andy introduced us, asked me to help you, and I agreed. I set up the fishing program out of Point of View with Charlie’s assistance to help you get started with your trips to the Joulters before you had Stafford Creek Lodge. I brought groups of clients to you there, and in fact, you did guide me and my clients. You honestly don’t remember that? Should we discuss it with Andy and Charlie, plus discuss it with the guides you used at that time? How about the clients who were there, some of them who are still fishing on Andros with Andros guides? Wouldn’t it be easier for you just to admit that. There’s nothing wrong about asking for help, accepting it, and then appreciating it.
        Also, you don’t remember you and Samantha inviting Kim and I to Stafford Creek while you were constructing the lodge, to show us around, show us the nearby land-locked lakes, etc.? You don’t remember having us at the lodge when it was completed, working on casting on the dock, etc. We have lots of photos of those days, and they were fun days. We included Stafford Creek Lodge in our Westbank Catalogs, sent you clients, though to your credit, after a few seasons you were able to book yourself pretty well, plus other agents booked you and helped you also. I could go on with details but I’ve made my point.

        It is true that we haven’t talked in years, so this is a start, and as I’ve said and written elsewhere, this issue isn’t about me and you. So I’m here to tell you again that I completely support your efforts against the large-scale developments you mention, completely support the ideas of conservation of the flats, of bonefishing habitat specifically, and of having the Bahamian people be in charge of their own country in these efforts. And in spite of what Ms. Wilson believes, I have always been in favor of and supportive of these things.
        And yes, I recognize that Shawn informed me about some of the struggling lodges and guides. I’m sorry to hear that as most of the lodges and guides I still keep in touch with are doing well, but perhaps they are just saying that to maintain a good outlook. That doesn’t matter, I support efforts to help these people who are struggling, and all business owners through the Islands in businesses related to the bonefishing industry….as I always have.
        But Prescott, I hope you see that’s really my point and what I’ve been writing about the past couple of days. Whether you agree with me or not, you and your group have created the impression that you are against foreigners, that you are against DIY, that you are against agents, etc. And honestly, now that I’ve read the actual Draft of the Fisheries Resources Act 2015, that’s even worse in being against foreigners than what has been attributed to you. As others have said, and I agree, this is misguided legislation, legislation that if passed will hurt the very people you/I want to help and protect. Take what Shawn said to heart, and not just for fishing lodges and fishing guides, but for all the businesses from hotels, to guest houses, restaurants, adventure tourism businesses who benefit from DIY anglers who spend money across a broad spectrum throughout the islands.

        You are a professional fly fisher, and an intelligent person, so you have to know that DIY angling is not the enemy or a threat to any conservation effort. Foreign fly fishers are not a threat to anything you are advocating, and in fact, foreign fly fishers, including me, can be your biggest supporters and advocates. If you disagree with that, then tell me specifically where you disagree, tell me what areas are threatened (remember that I have fished and traveled extensively throughout all the islands, written the book on it, so I will understand areas you feel are sensitive)…..and from this specific objective point-of-view a plan can be developed and implemented to protect these areas appropriately, on any islands that needs it. I realize you know a huge amount about this subject of conservation in the Bahamas, but efforts like this, the ones that are successful are large team efforts. Why alienate AFFTA and Orivs and the other organizations/individuals your group has marginalized. If I were you, I’d be trying to get all those people together on the same team.
        That would be easy….tell your people to have some respect for people who disagree with them, just agree to disagree. Support the Orvis proposal to the Ministry….especially regarding fishing licenses. All foreigners and nationals should have to buy a flats fishing license, conveniently, online, not through lodges and guides with subjective guidelines. Though as an additional option, lodges or government tourism offices could be designated as official license sellers as well. The Orvis scale for charging for licenses is ideal, with Nationals paying only a nominal fee. Then anyone with a license could DIY flats fish on any of the islands without a guide.
        If there are some specific flats here and there that need additional protection, that’s easy also. Flat Creek here in Jackson Hole is an example….While larger rivers and streams might be open year round, or for most of the year, Flat Creek is only open to fly fishing only from August 1 to October 31. So create seasons that make sense for those extra sensitive flats, but take time to do this thoughtfully and carefully. And hey, you also know that bait fishing, fishing with shrimp, etc. is a fish killer, so where you all think it best, designate flats as fly fishing only. That’s done all over the States, Argentina, and in many countries.

        If you, as the leader of your group, would just take a step back, tone it down, and make a super clear statement that you are not against the fishing licenses I’ve described above, and not against DIY with a license….and if fact that you will advocate and propose that to the government, I believe that you’d silence the vast majority of your critics, and get a lot of people that you need to achieve your goals, to actively support you. If you want to change all the negative perceptions, this is the way.

        And if you haven’t read the Orvis comments and suggestions to the legislation, please do it. Perk Perkins and his people are smart and reasonable, as I’m sure you know.

        In the end, we all know you can’t please everyone. There will still be some issues, but you can get way down the road really quick if you want to with lots more people on your side.

        I hope you can do that.
        Take care,

        • Prescott Smith

          Stephen
          I has been a long time and I do remember you coming here to visit the Lodge, but not staying. . Don’t not recall the boat trip, but if you say we did i will except that . As you know as a Guide You don’t remember every single Angler you fish, that is why i keep a journal. Just for the record I fished from a property in Fresh Creek before the Lodge, owned by the Small Hope Bay lodge family and then Small Hope bay itself. I do recall Your company West bank Anglers doing some business here with Stafford Creek Lodge over the years. I think you had up to 5 locations in different states in the US. I have never fished from Points of View, so it must be another Guide.

          The Association spoke as a Body with one voice taking into the consideration many factors that are not know to the general public. The Government of The Bahamas has taken the position to regulate The Fly Fishing Industry in The Bahamas in the interest of ALL. Please send in your recommendations as well.
          Regards
          Prescott

        • Prescott Smith

          Stephen
          I has been a long time and I do remember you coming here to visit the Lodge, but not staying. . Don’t not recall the boat trip, but if you say we did i will except that . As you know as a Guide You don’t remember every single Angler you fish, that is why i keep a journal. Just for the record I fished from a property in Fresh Creek before the Lodge, owned by the Small Hope Bay lodge family and then Small Hope bay itself. I do recall Your company West bank Anglers doing some business here with Stafford Creek Lodge over the years. I think you had up to 5 locations in different states in the US. I have never fished from Points of View, so it must be another Guide.

          The Association spoke as a Body with one voice taking into the consideration many factors that are not known to the general public. The Government of The Bahamas has taken the position to regulate The Fly Fishing Industry in The Bahamas in the interest of ALL. Please send in your recommendations as well.
          Regards
          Prescott

          • Stephen Vletas

            Thanks Prescott,
            We can leave the history issues there, and focus on the legislation.
            If you are including ALL Bahamians, then BFFIA members who voted for your proposal are a small minority of stakeholders in this issue, so please keep this in mind. That is an easy statistic to check if you look at the economic studies that have been done on fly fishing tourism to the Bahamas, and how that money is distributed.
            In any case, I have already made my specific suggestions and proposals to you in my last couple of posts. It’s up to you to consider them or not, act on them, or not. In terms of submitting anything to the government, I’ve stated I agree with the Orvis comments and suggestions that have already been submitted.
            Also, I’ve said that BFFIA and/or the government Marine agencies should provide specific studies defining spawning habitat and flats areas that are considered to be in danger, or at risk, from DIY fly fishing, and all flats fly fishing. Without those objective studies the majority of the legislation is premature, and would be based on conjecture. That said, the fishing licenses and the manual for professional guiding would be good first steps in my view.
            There’s not a lot more I can say that has any relevance, though I’m happy to use my experience to comment on any proposals or ideas you/BFFIA have going forward if you feel that would be appropriate. Same for the people on the other side from you.
            You’ve said a number of times that this is an issue for the Bahamian people to decide, and I agree with that.
            I wish you luck with the process, and I hope that any decisions made will include the interests of the many foreign visitors who love sharing your beautiful country with you.
            Stephen

        • Prescott Smith

          Steve,
          Please read below and you will clearly understand why BFFIA is the Nationally Recognized Association by The Bahamian Government. We think about the environment and Resources of The entire Bahamas, which includes the 700 islands and more. Also All Bahamians, not just the island that we live on . The Ecology on Abaco is also connected to the Greater Bahamas and in particular The Island of Grand Bahamas supports the overall Ecology of Abaco, and the other way around. Grand Bahama have the Second Largest Fresh water supply in The Bahamas next to Andros, Many Creeks system which makes up and replenishes the Little Bahama Bank. Some of the Creeks in Grand Bahama needs to re-open Steve, as they have been completely blocked during the Logging of Pine Trees many years ago.. There are several hundred blocked Creeks throughout The Bahamas that we should all be working together seeing that so much talk about how so many care about the fishery and want to preserve it.
          Finally Steve image if The Board Members of BFFIA only Cared about their individual Island ONLY.
          I went Abaco, Grand Bahama, Crooked Island, Acklins, Exuma, Long Island, and different parts of Andros in a Guide Training Program to promote fly fishing as a means to spread the conservation of the flats through catch and release. The Board of BFFIA is not made up of self-serving individuals. I put it to you that Paul Pinder did not go ROUGE, instead he just expanded his views beyond a narrow belt. Nature teaches us that The fish swims from Grand Bahama to Abaco and the other way around. Also the Fish from Abaco swims to Andros and the other way around. We must expand our thoughts beyond self-serving agendas, and look out for what is in the best interest of The Bahamian Children in Inagua in the most southern Island to the children in Mcleans’s Town, on Grand Bahama to Coppers Town on Abaco.
          On the Issue of AFFTA, BFFIA will not be drawn into a fight with AFFTA, as Jim Klug and Ian Davis hiding behind the AFFTA will not work. I have met Tucker Ladd and I know other Board Members of AFFTA who are open minded and progressive in their thinking. On the issue of Orvis we have found Perk is an open minded person and is committed to conservation overall. Perk has committed to the restoration of Nursery systems throughout The Bahamas. We hope to start with London Creek in the coming soon and others to follow. I hope Jim Klug, and Ian Davis with all the millions in income Yellowdog have earns from the resources of The Bahamas would at least commit to open one of the creeks on Abaco, Grand Bahama, Mangrove Cay, or any other place where their new founds friends are located. Yelowdog call to actions should include such things and the restoration of nursery systems throughout The Bahamas, not just trying to influence the Board structure of BFFIA to control the flats fishing industry in The Bahamas for their own self-serving agenda.

          Regards
          Prescott

          “For those of you who took the time to read this and don’t know me, I am married to an independent guide. My husband stands on a platform every day, and with a push pole, quietly and expertly guides his clients in the art of fly fishing and he’s been doing that under the hot sun for at least 20 years. I am also a fisher-woman. Fly fishing is my passion. My only agenda, is for my husband and the guides on Abaco to make a decent living and to preserve our pristine fishery through conservation.

          Tight lines,
          Cindy Pinder, VP & Secretary
          Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association”

          • Stephen Vletas

            Hello Prescott,
            OK, now you’re talking my language, and we’re finally through all the distractions to the meat of this issue. So please, just consider this one thing first: the current draft legislation and BFFIA proposals that hinder/restrict/maybe prohibit DIY fly fishing do not affect or have anything to do with what you write in this letter. Why can’t you just resolve or set that DIY issue aside to discuss at a future time, and go ahead and start with a fair fishing license system, guide training, conservation education, etc.?

            OK, moving on, I really like what you have written here about the ecosystems. We also observed and studied the fish migration patterns you describe and agree with you. Friends of ours have a foundation with tagging programs that were done, so I’m sure you have that data. The connections from Grand Bahama to Abaco are unmistakable. Same for Andros, and the Acklins/Crooked system is amazing. Long Island to Exuma, the same. And not a lot of people know how great Inagua is, which has a relationship to Cuba.

            The creek systems you talk about, that’s really a subject that is fascinating, as that problem is the same in salt and fresh water all over the world for a variety of species of fish. It sounds like you have identified many creeks that need clearing and improving, so that’s a great start. I would suggest that if you haven’t already done so, you rank the creeks on each island in priority of which needs clearing first, and set up an overall Program/Non-profit fund for your creek clearing project. As I’ve written previously, if this atmosphere of conflict about DIY/foreigners can be resolved, then you, BFFIA and the Bahamas are on a great conservation path. And I’m confident that significant money could be raised for your Creek Improvement Project. I would be happy to promote it. Further, you probably know that here in the States, and in Argentina, aside from people buying a fishing license, its common that states or provinces require/sell a conservation stamp. That is a one time fee per year of $5 to $10 that goes directly to a conservation effort. You could include something like that in your proposals to get that sanctioned by the government for your Creek Project. Then move on to other projects from there.

            In terms of the politics of AFFTA and Orvis, now that we’re talking about the real issue I have no more comments, but glad that Orvis is supporting your conservation efforts. As I wrote, that is Perk Perkins method, being open-minded and supporting conservation.

            OK, I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Creek Projects and other related programs, and hope you can resolve the unrelated DIY/foreigner issues. In my view, that would be a fair compromise to move ahead productively with your core plans and proposals.

            Best,
            Stephen

    • Prescott Smith

      Kathy Kanda :Thanks for posting Beau Beasley’s article. I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the proposed legislation but do welcome his thoughtful discussion which is in sharp contrast to some of the hysterical and borderline colonial ravings in the fly fishing blogosphere. My husband and I had the pleasure of spending a week at Stafford Creek , which incidentally, we booked through Yellow Dog. A highlight of our trip was Prescott Smith’s after dinner presentation about the fragile state of the Bahamian ecosystem and efforts to develop fly fishing as a tool for both economic development and sustaining the environment. A lowlight was witnessing the total disinterest of the other guests who exemplified the stereotypical ugly Americans — bragging about their wealth, treating the staff rudely and generally being drunk and obnoxious. I also find it somewhat hypocritical that much of what is being proposed in the Bahamas is not unlike what exists in other countries. States charge non-residents higher license fees than residents. Guides must have first aid and other certifications and can only guide on waters where they have permits. Much of the best waters in the U.S. ( and all of the salmon rivers in Iceland) are private and can only be accessed by paying sometimes exhorbitant rod fees. If, as some of the opponents predict, the proposed regulations have the unintended consequence of diminishing fly fishing visits, then so be it. The bottom line is that the Bahamian people have a right to self-determination, including the right to make their own mistakes. That they are looking for alternatives to foreign owned mega- resorts that offer low-paying service jobs while draining fresh water from the blue holes to ensure that tourists have fresh ice for their umbrella cocktails does not seem ill conceived. And I fail to see how we Americans who have not done a very good job of protecting our own waterways — witness the mining sludge release in the Animas, Love Canal, etc. — are in a position to be advising the Bahamians.
      9 hrs

  • Windrider

    I’ve fished the Bahamas for several decades and witnessed widespread abuse of the resource- netting bonefish, harvesting conch and crawfish of any and all sizes regardless of regulations that do not seem to filter down to the locals, NOT the visiting fishermen who in most cases respect and protect the resource. Education of the locals should be a priority sooner than later. Beaches are covered with debris. Take pride in your country Bahamas!

  • Bjorn Stromsness

    From Prescott above: “Our main reasons are the protection of the flats and its species by conserving and improving the population of the fish, so they do not become depleted or made extinct by over fishing or destruction of their marine environment”

    Let’s be real here. There is almost no threat from DIY angling to the environment. There is no science to back this up, not even a little bit. So, this is protectionism draped in conservation. To allow a statement like that to pass unchallenged does us all a great disservice.

    There ARE real threats to the flats, but they don’t come from C&R anglers. Not by a long way.

    He talks about the largest concentration of mangroves in the Western world… do you know where those are? The west side of Andros. Do you know how much pressure the west side of Andros gets? In the big picture, almost none. And yet that is a reason to pass this legislation? What does flats fishing have to do with reefs?

    Truth is most of the stated reasons have nothing to do with the legislation. You said “By its own admission, the BFFIA has stated that its primary interest in the proposed legislation is to protect Bahamians and their future employment as guides.” That simply isn’t true. They lead with conservation at every turn, while doing almost nothing about it. In Prescott’s own statements he trumpets the need to protect the environment, giving a nice green-washing to what really is a set of economic proposals.

    Also… please name illegal lodges in the Bahamas. Can you find any? Do they have websites? Booking agents? Guides? If not, do they even exist? I’m going to say, not really, not in any meaningful way.

    When you look at the regulations you have to look at not just what they say, but what they imply, how they could be used. From the first iteration through to the last publicly released version there is a lot of reading between the lines you have to do. As an example, the first iteration called for the license to be issued by the guides or lodges. The intent of that, from people I’ve talked to, was to enable guides to simply decline to issue a license, meaning a de facto ban on fishing in some places. So… what is stated and what is intended… you have to pick that stuff apart.

    In Part II, please look at what others have already done in the way of conservation. What the BFFIA intends to do is take credit for the work others have already put in.

    • Geneva Wilson

      Mr. Bjorn:

      You the last person to speak on DIY! Let me quote from you:

      “The risk, with this kind of book, is that the locations listed will get more traffic. The more traffic a bonefish flat gets, the worse the fishing.
      Bonefish visit the same flats relentlessly and if you teach one school
      of fish not to eat a Gotcha, that same school will remember it for the
      next angler… and the next angler… and the next.

      The
      alternate view one could choose to adopt would be that by alerting the
      DIY set to the truly large number of possibilities, the few hardest hit
      flats might see less pressure. I also
      have to consider that really, there aren’t too many of us out there
      looking for a DIY bonefishing flat. It may seem like there are, but I
      think there are a far greater number of anglers who hope to take such
      trips than number of anglers who have wet their toes in pursuit of
      bonefish, on their own, in these far flung locations.”

      Hmmmm!

      Now I put the questions to you: How do you know that there aren’t illegal lodges ran in the Bahamas and the numbers involved? I can assure you there are quite a few!!!!! Why do countries pass laws if not to protect their citizens and their natural resources, FIRST? Do you know Prescott personally or ONLY met him briefly at the Fly Fishing Show in California? Yet you speak with certainty about his character and intentions. What do you know about BFFIA or its Board Members? Have you ever taken the time to interview them or requested the facts? When since have you become the authority of conservation in the Bahamas and on who has done what? Provide the evidence? It appears you know very little as you ask questions like “What does flats fishing have to do with reefs?” and why the need to protect Sting Rays. I suggest you ask a Marine Biologist those questions. Prescott has been an Advocate for conservation for many years even before BFFIA. Do your research!

      AFFGA and BFFIA’s recommendations have quite a bit of similarities. From where I stand, you are definitely not an investigative journalist but a bias, sensationalist and propaganda blogger, who equivocates for his own self serving reasons.

      • Bjorn Stromsness

        It amazes me how you can quote me and totally not understand what I’ve written. Have you read that second paragraph? Do you not understand what I’m saying? It does not bolster your argument… at all… not a tiny bit, so I’m not sure why you keep repeating it.

        If you try to tell me DIY C&R fishing for bonefish has anything to do with the health of the reef systems, or that bonefish anglers impact stingray populations… just stop there, because that is just silly.

        I’ve done my research. I’ve talked to marine biologists who think such claims are idiotic.

        • Geneva Wilson

          If you say so……….

      • Roger Harding

        Can you tell me what constitutes an “illegal” lodge?

    • Shawn Leadon

      Mr Bjorn – you have indicated you have spoken with biologist before and yet you don’t understand the correlations between the reef systems, flats and mangroves? Jokes! It’s a shame you even have a blog because you have no clue on what you are talking about. You must be closely related to Donald Trump ” The Donald “. Whilst you and others of your same interpertation of our country’s stance just don’t get it. Sit small, allow us to control our own affairs and govern our resources accordingly to permit our valued clients a paradise with unlimited sustainable resources.

      Have you ever heard of any lodge or guide from the bahamas screaming about boat, appearal, rods, equipment etc prices from the United States? None. If you choose not to come then don’t! The doors are open for all, banning nothing or no one. Get off the subject……… Go Tie flies and learn how to fish. Better yet come let me share an experience of a life time and teach you the correlation between the various eco systems and the important role each of them play.

      Re- cast. Long strip!

      Shawn

      • Bjorn Stromsness

        Mr Shawn, I’m not saying there isn’t a relationship between the flats and the mangroves and the reefs. What I’m saying, and what is certainly true, is that DIY anglers are not impacting those resources in a way that is detrimental.

        DIY C&R fishing has almost no impact on the fishery overall, while I’ll certainly agree it can have an impact on fish behavior on a small number of the most heavily traveled flats.

        Now, illegal boats from the DR coming in and stripping a reef, yeah… big impact. Fishing grouper spawning sites? Huge impact (massive, really). Dredging a nursery system to put in some stupid hotel or marina? Yeah, plenty big. Mining, like on the north side of Grand Bahama? Yeah, pretty bad.

        Two guys going out on foot and maybe catching 5-10 bonefish (if they are lucky) and letting them all go, if done correctly? No… you can’t really be arguing that the reefs are being hurt by that, are you? A guy going out on the wrong tide looking in the wrong spots and maybe catching and releasing a mangrove snapper while blind casting because he couldn’t find anything else to cast to in a day? Not such a big impact.

        Taking juvenile conch? Yup, that’s a big problem. Netting bonefish in places like Long? Yep, that’s a problem.

        There are enough real threats to the flats, the mangroves and the reefs without you trying to lump DIY anglers in with the actual culprits. If you had to rank-order all the threats and issues I’ve listed above when it comes to the health of the overall fishery, you are either putting DIY angling at the very bottom, or you aren’t being honest.

        Of course, this isn’t about the health of the flats or the mangroves or the reefs. This is about business. You want more of it. Who doesn’t? Of course, the business you want more of comes from American pockets, so maybe we have some skin in the game?

        Oh, and Donald Trump? I wouldn’t push him out of the way if he stepped in front of a bus. I might even tip the driver.

        • Geneva Wilson

          Dear Bjorn,

          Finally something we can agree on!

          “Now, illegal boats from the DR coming in and stripping a reef, yeah… big impact. Fishing grouper spawning sites? Huge impact (massive, really). Dredging a nursery system to put in some stupid hotel or marina? Yeah, plenty big. Mining, like on the north side of Grand Bahama? Yeah, pretty bad.”

          “Taking juvenile conch? Yup, that’s a big problem. Netting bonefish in places like Long? Yep, that’s a problem”

          Listen we are not looking to ban Unguided Anglers (UGA), just trying to find a happy medium and balance so that our affordable, healthy and sustainable industry can be around for a very, very long time for us ALL to enjoy.

  • Steve Marsh

    Mr. Beasley,
    Thank you for your effort to present a factual account of what is occurring in the Bahamas. Among my circle of DIY friends, the main topic is whether a guide will be necessary. As the proposed legislation is written, will DIY bone fishing be eliminated. Steve Marsh

    • Beau Beasley

      Steve,

      Thanks for your kind and thoughtful response. Tell your friends to stand by for part II of this series. I will continue to do fact based research on this complicated topic which has garnered a great deal of interest (and a lot of heartfelt emotions on both sides). I’ll do my best to to cover the conservation issues important to you and to other fly anglers. Rest assured I will also cover DIY issues as well.

      Also, if you felt this article was helpful, be sure to share it on Facebook, and other mediums as the more folks read this, the better they will be informed.

      Thanks again for your kind words, and please remember this wouldn’t happen without the support of MidCurrent and it’s publisher.

  • Geneva Wilson

    Thank you for the videos, quite inspiring! We would definitely look forward to having AFFGA in a public forum or one of the local talk shows.

  • Chris miller

    Mr Beasley and Mr Cutchin…thanks VERY MUCH for lending this issue a much needed reset. Its a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but the vitriol is not surprising given the state of our media -political axis in the US.

    First, for the record, I have known Prescott Smith for 20 years and I consider him a good friend. We all have major disagreements with our friends and I certainly do with him. He is also a singular star at making enemies, which undermines what I see are basically good intentions. Whatever his motivation is, its certainly not personal wealth, which some commentators here and elsewhere seem to imply.

    As a South Floridian and a frequent, long time visitor to the Bahamas, from dirtbag camping trips to Bakers Bay, I always remind myself that its NOT the US, and that it more closely resembles the model in many countries…95% of the wealth owned by a handful of families (in the case of The Bahamas, some black, mostly white), and with rampant corruption at all levels of government, whichever party is in power. Referencing the recent FIFA scandal, we got a very clear look at how institutionalized corruption is in most places in the world, except Northern Europe and (kinda) North America. Good EG….the complete lack of response you received from your thoroughly researched and reasonable questions from anyone in Govt.

    So i would offer that Mr Smith would not object to anyone calling him a nationalist. He wears it on his sleeve. However misguided some of his efforts may be, he is simply trying to make a stand against folks from inside and outside the country from taking the “bonefish equity” from the citizenry.

    Needle movers throughout the ages always piss people off as they push for change and upset the status quo. This situation is no different.

    Since it seems you have this set up this terrific article in parts, Ill wait for your next piece(s) toi weigh in on the proposal re: License etc. Ill just make a quick point to say Mr Vletas is wrong on one at least one point of fact….While neither I nor Mr Smith nor anyone I know would advocate no DIY bonefishing in THe Bahamas ( a ridiculous premise), it is true that you cannot fish for Atlantic Salmon anywhere in New Brunswick Canada without hiring a New Brunswick Licensed guide. (damn I love fishing for Atlantics!), and that’s just an EG that comes immediately to mind…plenty of others. Don’t say it doesn’t exist anywhere.

    More later

    • Stephen Vletas

      Hello Chris Miller,
      Great letter, I’m with you on pretty much everything you wrote, and your points about corruption are so true. Unfortunately, its that way in Argentina also, only worse, and in many other countries, pero bueno. I’ve noticed that people on both sides of this issue keep using the word “misinformation”, and I’d really like to see that defined by both sides for specific terms as you have done. You said that neither you or Mr. Smith nor anyone you know would advocate no DIY Bonefishing in the Bahamas, and you call it a ridiculous premise. I couldn’t agree more, that is a ridiculous premise and from what I understand, that premise is one of the biggest issues in this debate. If you are correct, and Mr. Smith does not advocate no DIY fishing, and does not want foreigners to be forced to hire a guide, then I’m happy to stand corrected on that. That would be fabulous. Can you please confirm this, and have Mr. Smith confirm it in writing. I know that many of the people and groups the BFFIA calls “a small group of renegades”, would be greatly relieved by this, and it would throw cold water on this debate pretty quickly in my opinion. FYI….I’ve also known Prescott Smith for about 20 years, maso menos, and though I can’t say we are good friends like you are with him, I know him fairly well. He is pretty much as you describe. He and I have had some interesting debates. I respect his intelligence and passion, and his drive to better himself and his profession. But as you say, there are much better and easier ways to achieve your goals.
      And thanks for the update on fishing in New Brunswick. I’ve fished there a couple of times years ago without a guide, just with industry friends, and we had no problem. Same for Iceland. Have they changed also?

      • Shawn Leadon

        I was just in New Brunswick about three months ago. You had to have a guide. Each second home owner is required to have to persons per household to have a special guided license. If they don’t they themselves cannot fish their own coastal shore or waters. I’ve had the great opportunity to fish Ted Williams pool called the Ora Pool the most famous spot on the miramichi river. From my observation they have done well protecting their resources with the many regulations and the local are thriving in a very robust tourism based economy.

        Mr Vletas I am certain you and your team has done some good. Not denying that. However, whenever agencies try to dictate to businesses this become problematic. I’ve heard the stories and believe me when I say to you those days are done. Guides and lodges are truly fed up. The cant make bank payments the economics just doesn’t add up.

        On the issue with DIY again there is no issue. The government not BFFIA has came up with a set of proposed rules. They asked for the world to weigh in to them not on blogs. Blogs does nothing other than talk sensationalism. Nevertheless, after hearing concerns from other islands cause Andros doesn’t have an issue with this. The government then ask what would be a balanced approach so that most are satisfied. Based on information from around the country most persons agreed that zones would be the best way to resolve this conflict with paying angler via a guided trip. No one wants to out right ban DIY but hell if this one issue is creating such a fit may be allow the DIY to DWTW ( do what they want ). Cliché ” When in Rome do as the Romnans do “. People can read the draft proposal and interpid it how they see fit. We are seeking stability in what is a seemingly growing chaotic situation. BFFIA nor does the Bahamas government have any negativity towards anyone. But rest assured those sad individuals who have went out of their way in smear campaign to boycott the Bahamas I say grow up. Capitalism works for you in your country. However, our culture allows us to depend solely on our natural resources. It’s not an investment it is a way of life………

        • Stephen Vletas

          Thanks for these comments Shawn, and especially interesting to hear you say that lodges and guides are struggling so much economically. Are you attributing the problems to booking agents? To chaos caused by DIY, or just to other business factors, or a combination? Being an international entrepreneur, I’m interested in your opinion on this. I’ve spent the past decade mostly doing business in Argentina, a chaotic beautiful country with a deeply corrupt government, and a culture that is surprisingly similar to the Bahamas. In all cultures, each business or individual business person needs to establish their own guidelines and practices, and then do business, or not, with others that are a fit for them. That was our business model in the Bahamas in promoting independent guides, and in choosing which lodges to work with. Each lodge or guide was free to work with us or not, no dictating by any party. AIBC was always a strong lodge, a leader in the industry and community thanks to Rupert, and I never saw anyone dictating to him. So in your opinion, what changed in the last ten years to create the current situation. Why would any lodge or guide allow agents to dictate to them when they can stop working with that agent any time? OK, if you’re interested in this discussion we can continue it directly, and if not, no problem. I hope you and your business will move ahead successfully. Best,
          Stephen

    • Beau Beasley

      Chris,

      Thanks so much for your very kind words about this article. There is a lot of history here, and lots of moving parts so I thought it important to try and set the stage with at least most of the main players. While this proposed draft legislation isn’t the end of the world, I do believe it is more than a tempest in a teapot. Millions of dollars are potentially at stake here, and since perception drives reality, and rarely the reverse, bad messaging here to tourist or anglers could have negative repercussions for years.

      This proposed bill coves a few very important topic concerning bonefish and their future, and thus passions are running high on both sides. I feel there is so much galvanization on this issue that people are talking “past or at” each other instead of “with” each other. This is one of the reasons I’m trying to present the public with verifiable facts, rather than personal opinion. I am grateful to both Cindy Pinder, and Prescott Smith for giving me access to their positions, and a helpful hand in providing me with the information and the documents I needed so the public doesn’t have to take my word for much of anything, I believe that’s the point of good conservation writing, getting out good facts, not one’s personal agenda. I’ve never been to the Bahamas, and have no plans to go there so I don’t have any dog in the fight from that aspect. I do however care about good conservation (even in saltwater) which is why I took on this issue.

      I honestly think those on BFFIA’s Board that supports the legislation, and those opposed to to the legislation want the same thing regarding the safety of bonefish. They just want to go about it in different ways, some of which are categorically opposite to the others…..thus the breakdown and anger.

      While I have gotten some unofficial help from a source tied to the Ministry of Tourism, I was deeply disappointed that no government official bothered to answer what I thought were reasonable questions. I have no desire to cast the Government (or anyone for that matter) tied to this story in a bad light. I was just looking for some basic answers. I even offered to have them send me a quote without answering my questions so as to at least have them weigh in with their concerns. Regrettably they decided to ignore me, and thus lost a chance (in that article) to reach out to my readers, the very people they need the most from a tourism standpoint. I’m holding out hope they may yet reach out to me at some future date. It wouldn’t be the first time I was stonewalled, only to have the person change their mind once they realized I don’t do hatch jobs.

      Again, I appreciate the kind words and I too appreciate Marshal at MidCurrent for taking the piece. I hope to answer more of your questions in the next article next week.

      Tight Lines!
      Beau

  • Shawn Leadon

    I don’t see what all the noise is about. We are making laws that best benefit its people and make certain that those vistors who continuely visit our shores continue to enjoy the various activities they have for decades. At the same time, we are taking a stance against people who have been exploiting Bahamians for years and have made a fortune doing so. Mr Vletas seems very vocal. Making such huge statements. His mere experience does not shed a good outlook on the on going situation here in our country. Local businesses are failing do to agencies such as yellow dog and west bank raping them of their profits. Let’s be fair everyone has to make monies to support their families. Most businesses are left to operate on a thread hinging from the sky. Most Americans are not aware of what is actually going on. The facts are quite a few second home owners have turned their residiential properties into guess house and lodges. This particular industry was preserved exclusively for Bahamians. It never stated you shouldn’t/couldn’t have a foriegn partner or investors. But majority shareholder ought to be Bahamian. What’s wrong with that?

    I currently sit on the board of BFFIA and I watch how companies and many persons try to ridicule Prescott and the board for taking such a national stance. Well these concerns are not only the boards concerns but the entire country. You hear about folks and other associations. Well guys their is only one Association recognized by government and that is BFFIA. Egos can flair as much as they may want to but the reality is the voice of the Fly Fishing Industry is the BFFIA. With that said, we sort to lobby to government on behalf of it concerned members. It was truly sad to see how many Bahamians are hurting as a result of greedy agencies such as yellow dog and west bank. Hey Stephen you were smart to sell thumbs up.

    What’s absurd to me is these very same authors of books and the various scientist who claims to do their research. They all get their information from the guides never giving them full recognition. A few year later they come on blogs as if they have arrived and know it all. My friend you don’t know Jack! Or even a snapper. Lol. Seriously, no respect has been given to the service side of fly fishing in the Bahamas. Companies have cherry picked a hand full of foriegn interest businesses and have neglected most bahamian guides in particular. So whenever my anglers ask about any products I simply say I endorse none of them because they don’t endorse me. This shouldn’t be. There ought to be a close relationship between merchandisers, marketing/travel companies and lodgeguides.

    • Stephen Vletas

      Hey Shawn
      Thanks for writing this and good to hear your opinion. FYI, I’ve only written two posts about this, and only in the last couple of days, so don’t really see many huge statements. As you know this is an old issue, and I was involved in those issues for many years, so thought it would be good to get the history out there. And you’re right, my opinion is just that, my opinion, but it’s shared by many of our mutual friends on Andros and around all the islands. You and I know lots of the same people very well, from Andy, Charlie, Frankie, Barry, and many others, to great people we’ve lost like Ivan and Rupert. And the fact is I supported all of them, all of you, and you know it. So I’m sorry to hear you say things like Westbank raped your people. We/I did just the opposite, and you should know that. Supporting the independent guides, getting them stared, keeping them going was always my thing, on all the islands, just ask them. You and I never worked together like that, though I supported Rupert and AIBC as a lodge, so maybe you just aren’t aware, but go have a chat Charlie or Andy, or Frankie or so many others. Instead of just booking lodges, which would have been easier and more lucrative, we actually supported the guides, and more than anything we gave them the credit for our success, and for providing so much fun and enjoyment to our clients, and to Kim and me. As a professional guide myself, the guides have always been for me, the heart of the Bahamas bonefishing industry, and I believe that now more than ever. So please, think that over and talk to those guys.
      My comments in these posts are actually motivated by something else you wrote. I don’t want to see any Bahamian business suffer, and I am still totally in touch with my friends in the Bahamas and in touch with what goes on around the various islands, and I visit as often as I can, though not like in the old days. You’re right that the economic situation can be difficult, so I don’t want to see that, and I would like to see you all get along and prosper. That’s why I’m concerned that anti-DIY sentiments will seriously hurt many Bahamian business people. That’s why I believe that you all should have a fishing license (I’ve advocated this since the 90s), and that everyone should have to buy one. And that with a license, anyone can go out and enjoy the fishing, without hiring a guide. That benefits more businesses, from hotels, lodges, guest houses, to restaurants, etc. than anything else. If you agree with that, then let me know, as any other issues are minor and can be worked out as you say.
      I also agree with you that if anyone is operating illegally, the types of businesses you describe, and that is outside the law, those businesses should be closed. I’m all for you protecting your country and your industry, and just hope that in your passion to do that, you don’t end up hurting it more.
      Hey, take care and good fishing. Stephen

    • Kevin

      OK, I am just a Tourist/Bonefisherman weighing in here.

      I have read the proposed regulations by the BFFIA and they are not friendly to the DIY Bonefisherman. They are proposing to make some flats and islands ‘Prohibited’ to DIY. The annual $500 license is outrageous and is higher than any place in the World. What the BFFIA does not understand is that the people that book their guide services such as myself also like to DIY on the Flats.

      I stay in the Bahamas for 3 months every year and Employ a Bahamas guide about once a week. I also like to fish near my apartment for a couple hours when the tide and weather conditions are right. I spend a lot of money in the Bahamas to rent an Apartment, rent a car, Buy groceries, eat at restaurants and do other tourist activities such as snorkeling and boating. And thousands of Dollars to my Bahamas Bonefish Guide in Fees and Tips.

      What the BFFIA proposal is telling me is “Don’t come to the Bahamas, because you are not staying at a Bahamas Bonefish Lodge”. If you put these proposals in place, I can guarantee the Bahamas Tourism will Suffer. And the Bahamas Bonefish Lodges will be Booking Bahamian Tourists as Americans will go elsewhere and fish other species.

      • Alex A.

        Dear Kevin,

        Just to point out. I have fished in Bolivia for about a week and my fishing license cost me $670 and Slovenia was $550 for 6 days. Thinking about going to Grand Cayman, so I checked the website and found where Grand Cayman charges $485 for an annual fishing license.

        It doesn’t appear that BFFIA is totally banning DIY but trying to provide some balance and control with it. I guess the Bahamian Government will have the final decision on DIY, as I am certain that many persons must have sent their recommendations to them for consideration.

        I hope you are able to continue to fish near your apartment and that the Bahamian Government will pass a law that is firstly in the best interest of their country and its natural resources and for us Anglers to visit and enjoy.

        Tight Lines.

        • Kevin

          Alex, When I said that the $500 a year license was higher than
          anywhere else in the World, I was mainly talking about my experiences and Bonefishing in Particular. I am not going to Fact Check all of your examples, but I did a small bit of research and it turns out that in Grand Cayman does not charge any fee for ‘Catch and release fishing for Bonefish. I am not checking Bolivia or Slovenia as there are no Bonefish there. As a comparison Florida (Where I used to winter instead of the Bahamas) Charges $47 annually for a Non Resident to Fish Bonefish as well as any other species. So, I have plenty of options like fishing Tarpon and Bonefish in Florida in the winter as well.

          My source is the Marine Rules from the Cayman Government and the text that I have included below. Where is your source for the $485 license for Bonefishing in Grand Cayman? I cannot find it.

          FISHING LICENSES

          Unless licensed by the Marine Conservation Board,
          residents who do NOT possess Caymanian Status may
          not take or attempt to take, by any means, any marine
          life while he is on shore or in any part of Cayman waters
          in which he can stand.

          No licence is required for catch and release fishing

          • Alex A.

            From the Cayman DOE:

            Restrictions on FishingAnyone
            is allowed to fish from a boat in deep water as long as they are well
            away from the shore beyond water that they can stand in. However, if you
            are neither Caymanian, nor possess Caymanian Status, you are not
            allowed to fish from the shore or ‘standing’ water depth, unless you
            have a fishing licence. A licence can be obtained from the DoE, located
            in the Cayman Islands Environmental Centre on North Sound Road (Tel:
            (345) 949 8469) and costs CI$150 per month or CI$400 per year. Anyone
            however, can line fish from shore or within “standing” water depth as
            long as they practice “catch and release” and the fish are released
            alive and unharmed.

            • Kevin

              Yes, Alex – and from your text:

              “Anyone however, can line fish from shore or within “standing” water depth as long as they practice “catch and release” and the fish are released alive and unharmed.”

              And “Anyone” would mean that Residents and Non-Residents could Bonefish without a License, if they practice “Catch and Release”, which meshes with the Marine Rules that I posted also.

              • Alex A.

                Thanks Kevin. I will be able to confirm all of this once I reach out and speak directly with the DOE in Cayman. Me, personally, I will pay the CI150 because it has been my experience that while wading, there is the possibility of me catching a lovely Mutton Snapper or Jack for the Grill, which would be a little too difficult to C&R and to avoid any potentials with the local Wardens :-).

  • Cindy James Pinder

    Nice job Beau trying to explain the complicated mess happening in the Bahamas right now. It is mind boggling that saltwater flats fishing, the most tranquil sport, performed in the quietest of pristine environs is embroiled in such calamity because of the poor construction and introduction of proposed legislation. Nationwide consultation BEFORE the draft was sprung on an unsuspecting country would have gone a long way in preventing all of this bad press and bad feelings.

    All of us in the industry have been begging for sensible flats legislation for years. In fact,
    the need for a strong and unified voice of the many guides on our 125 mile long
    island of Abaco is the primary reason that the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association, a Bahamian registered non-profit company, was formed in 2009. Although we knew the names of various guides on our island many of us had never even met! The AFFGA was an opportunity for us to join together, meet one another and ascertain the various issues affecting guides in different areas of our island. Interestingly, we learned that we all had very different issues that needed to be addressed in the north,central, and southern areas, and on the Cays of Abaco. And that is just on one island! When you consider the entire archipelago of the Bahamas it is glaringly obvious that a one-size solution cannot possibly fit all.

    Various US conservation fishery associations and scientific organizations in coalition with the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas National Trust and Bahamian guides began trying to form a national organization in 2009. A two day bonefish conference
    and guide workshop in October 2010 was intended to cumulate in the formation of
    the Bahamas Fly Fishing Federation. Except, in the afternoon of the second day, Prescott Smith hijacked the meeting and derailed the whole process and we all left that meeting with what turned out to be a terribly ineffective steering committee that ended up forming the BFFIA.

    The last task of the steering committee was to sign up BFFIA members on their respective islands. I signed up 14 voting-member guides from Abaco. Of those, only my husband, Capt.Buddy Pinder, attended the 1st AGM in Nassau. Another Abaco member, who was unable to attend the meeting because of a prior commitment, agreed to be nominated for the board of directors to represent the North Region (Abaco & Grand Bahama) if he was elected.

    This is where my tale gets interesting because, you see, we had all been had!

    When the election process began, the first order of business by Mr. Erin Ferguson, Prescott Smith’s hand-picked Steering Committee Chairman, was to put forth a motion to delete any nominee for the board that was not present at the meeting. Denny Rankin
    (current BFFIA VP) seconded the motion. And then, unlike now, at the 2015 AGM, when Prescott was Chairman and would not recognize motions by members and refused to allow them to be voted upon, the Steering Committee Chairman called for a vote on the seconded-motion. Officially, Abaco, the island in this country with the second largest

    guide population would not have representation on the board of the national organization. Period.

    What we didn’t know when we walked into the meeting but became obvious very quickly during that first AGM was that Prescott Smith brilliantly schemed to hijack the BFFIA. He recruited Cheryl Bastian, a new fly fishing industry entrepreneur in Andros, to hire a plane to bring the Andros guides to the AGM because, as she later told me, “The guides from Abaco where trying to take everything over.” Remember, my husband was the single solitary vote from Abaco. It is noteworthy to mention here that there were 47 Andros guides registered on the BFFIA roster the first year.

    And that is how the unsuspecting BFFIA members at the inaugural AGM ended up with the first board of directors. It is no surprise that Prescott Smith became the first president. Within months Benjamin Pratt, who was the government liaison (this was to be an industry association – not a guide association) resigned (to save being fired) as the Executive Director and took the $50 thousand dollar seed money provided by Tourism with him. Many members gave up on the BFFIA at that point. I believe only one Abaco
    guide rejoined the second year.

    At some point it must have become evident that Abaco should be represented because The BFFIA board added Paul Pinder as its 11th board of director in April, 2014. The only problem with that is that the Articles of Association state: Article #21. The ten Directors shall be elected at the AGM for a 2 year period and may be reelected after that period expires. Article #29. The Board of Directors shall have power at any time, and from time to time, to appoint any person to be Director, either to fill a casual vacancy or as an addition to the existing Board of Directors, but so that the total number of Directors
    shall not any time exceed the number fixed in accordance with these articles. (which is 10)

    I bring up all of this history for two reasons. 1. Mr. Smith finds it difficult to follow (his
    own) rules and prefers manipulation to get his own way. 2. Mr. Smith thrives on the strategy of divide and conquer.

    Paul Pinder is a founding member of the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association and has been the President of the AFFGA since its inception in 2009. (In June of this year it became necessary to vote for new officers in an Extraordinary Meeting after the draft legislation was released.) I have been friends with Paul for at least 12 years. In fact, Paul and I traveled to Hawaii together as representatives of the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association for a week of workshops with the Bahamas National Trust in April 2015. And we had a great time! I did hear him once say, “I guess I’m the President of AFFGA” when he was introduced to someone. And on several occasions he commented, “That will be addressed when the new law comes out” and he mentioned Prescott’s name a few times.

    Paul never mentioned to anyone in the AFFGA that he was a board member of the BFFIA. He never called a meeting to bring us all together to get ideas for new legislation that would intimately affect us all. Nor did he ask any of us to join or rejoin the BFFIA so we could help implement change. He appears to have gone rouge and has become a staunch supporter and board member of the BFFIA, an organization that most Abaco guides, lodge owners and industry stakeholders are obviously intended to be excluded from.

    As the 2nd AGM approached Benjamin Pratt reached out to me once again to join the
    BFFIA but I refused. About a month before the meeting one of the board members, Cheryl Bastian, that I had never met called and begged me to join her and Benjamin and others that wanted to save the BFFIA by voting in new leadership because an industry organization is much needed. Foolishly, I capitulated and on the very last day I signed up myself and 18 Abaco guides that were willing to fly to Nassau with me to vote for new leadership.

    It should be mentioned that only one of the guides that flew to Nassau with me knew anybody in a leadership position of the BFFIA. My husband absolutely refused to sign up or be a part of the organization as he was the only voting member from Abaco the first time and he knew exactly what was going to happen this time.

    On Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 around noon, a little more than 36 hours before the AGM and a work day for all the guides that actually have clients, this email was sent out to the BFFIA membership:

    Dear Members:

    I have been advised to inform you that the following Professional Members have
    agreed to run with our current President, Prescott Smith, as his Team, for your
    information:-

    NORTH REGION-
    Paul Pinder- Abaco
    Omeko Glinton- Grand Bahama

    WEST REGION-

    Prescott Smith- Central Andros

    Nathan Adams- South Andros

    CENTRAL REGION-
    Nathaniel Gilbert- Cat Island
    Denward “Denny” Rankine- Eleuthera

    SOUTH REGION- James
    “Docky” Smith- Long Island
    Kendall Williamson- Acklins

    LODGE NW REGION-
    Andros Island Bonefish Club (Shawn Leadon)- Central Andros

    LODGE SC REGION-
    Cartwright’s Bay Bonefishing Lodge (Colin Cartwright)- Long Island

    I will advise you if they are other Members who are interested in running in the
    Professional Category, once I have been advised.

    Regards,
    Geneva M Wilson
    Secretary/Director
    Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association

    There was no email from the board of BFFIA asking if any members were interested in
    being board members, just an announcement of Prescott’s Team. FYI. So typical of the BFFIA leadership style.

    I had to fly home so wasn’t present for the actual voting at the AGM which started at 6:30 pm! (The meeting was scheduled to adjourn at 4 pm.) But I was told that flyers with pictures and names had been printed and passed out to members so they knew who they were supposed to vote for. That’s a great thing about the BFFIA board . . . . They are so helpful!

    Prescott Smith had spent months traveling around the Bahamas putting together his ‘team’ and trying to get votes to keep him on the board. On the other hand, Cheryl Bastian had worked for weeks, canvasing Andros, talking with guides and spent untold hours on the phone calling members around the Bahamas talking to them garnering their
    support. We had a handful of professional members who were willing to run as board members. The trouble was, that none of us knew each other so how would we know anything about the person willing to run? Our gesture of being helpful was to have a quick meeting when we arrived in Nassau so that everyone would have a chance to see the members who agreed to run and hear a little bit about their background.

    When I read that “some BFFIA members have charged that the opponents of Prescott
    Smith and the proposed legislation waylaid them and pressed them to vote against him and the bill just moments before the election.” I roared with laughter!

    Those buses were hired and paid for by the ‘small group of renegades’! The renegades were supposed to meet at the airport as we were all flying in from various islands and we would board the buses and stop on the way to the AGM to have a quick meeting to introduce ourselves so we would know who to vote for, i.e. not Prescott’s Team.

    One can only wonder why grown men would aimlessly follow the direction of Cheryl
    Bastian, a known ‘renegade,’ and board a bus. Perhaps they thought that was part of the deal, a deal which included airfare or airfare and accommodations so there would be enough voting members to keep Prescott in office? Maybe someday we will know the answer to that. Obviously, our ‘renegade’ meeting should have been more exclusive but sadly we are not highly trained manipulators. We were simply having a pre-election pep rally!

    As we were walking into the building I happened to be walking next to the lodge manager (renegade) where Paul Pinder works and I said to him, “I can’t believe Paul has the nerve to ride our buses and come to this meeting as this is for the opposition.” It’s interesting to read that Paul Pinder claims that he and the other guides left the meeting when they realized we were introducing people to run against Prescott. How was that any different than BFFIA’s email announcing Prescott’s Team? I wonder if they boarded our buses and waited for a free ride to the AGM or if they called a taxi? Does anybody know?

    There are two things that Beau wrote in this excellent article that I disagree with.

    1. He states that, “The BFFIA is an association that represents guides and various lodge owners and operators who run fly fishing-related businesses across the country’s many islands.”

    It would be more accurate to say that the BFFIA represents a small portion of guides and lodge owners and absolutely nobody body else in the fly fishing industry.

    2. Beau wrote, “A primary goal of the opposition to the bill was the defeat of Prescott Smith as BFFIA president. Results indicate, however, that Smith garnered 51 votes – more than any single candidate in his region. Had every one of the 22 members who registered to vote in the election but left before the vote was held voted against Smith
    and for his closest rival (Randy Thompson), it seems Smith still would have won
    reelection.”

    The draft legislation was nothing more than a red herring to distract the members from changing the leadership. Even though the board of directors was directly responsible for much of the content of the draft legislation that would have been dealt with on June 29th, 2015 at the Consultation hearing with The Department of Marine Resources.

    The primary goal of the opposition was to change the leadership of the BFFIA. It should
    be noted that the election was not for officers. The election was for board members. Officers would have been chosen by the board of directors at a later date. If the opposition had been able to seed the board with directors that were not part of
    Prescott’s Team the election for officers may have had a different outcome.

    Sadly, what may have been is something we will never know. Prescott’s exclusionary leadership, underhanded manipulations, and lack of regard for the members of the organization, his and the boards failure to follow the Articles of Association is the reason many of us were prevented from voting. Therefore, we want nothing to do with the BFFIA as they do not represent us.

    For those of you who took the time to read this and don’t me, I am married to an independent guide. My husband stands on a platform every day, and with a push pole, quietly and expertly guides his clients in the art of fly fishing and he’s been doing that
    under the hot sun for at least 20 years. I am also a fisher-woman. Fly fishing is my passion. My only agenda, is for my husband and the guides on Abaco to make a decent living and to preserve our pristine fishery through conservation.

    Tight lines,
    Cindy Pinder, VP & Secretary
    Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association

    • Kevin

      Thanks for your Excellent explanation Cindy ! …. I have also hired your husband, Buddy about 10 years ago on Abaco…..

      What the BFFIA fails to understand, is that if they get their way, it will kill their business as well. They are hurting the very customer that their business depends on. Anyone that is a Serious enough Bonefisher to pay over $500 a day for a guide, also is serious enough to want to DIY sometimes.

      • Cindy James Pinder

        Thank you Kevin. We agree with you. Thanks for your past business! We appreciate our clients and hope you return to Abaco someday to fish!
        Tight lines,
        Cindy

        • Geneva Wilson

          Let’s see,

          Prescott during the AGM Campaign paid for the Guides’ tickets and accommodations. So see below:

          “From:
          Date: Tue, June 16, 2015 3:11 pm
          To: “Cindy Pinder”

          Hi Cindy
          Ok will do sending in for now just got your note.

          Sincerely
          Cheryl Bastian
          Director/Treasurer

          ——– Original Message ——–
          Subject: Airline tickets
          From: “Cindy Pinder”
          Date: Tue, June 16, 2015 2:48 pm
          To: “Cheryl Bastian”

          Hi Cheryl,

          Some just called me to tell me that the Abaco Swim Club is flying to Nassau for a meet on Thursday the 25th. Yikes, they will fill up the plane!

          Please make our travel reservations ASAP so that doesn’t happen. Sky Bahamas is $200 a ticket.

          Bahamasair flight #UP136 departs Marsh Harbour 7:25 am arrives Nassau 8:00 am

          Bahamasair flight #UP137 departs Nassau 5:45 pm arrives Marsh Harbour 6:20 pm

          Justin Sands
          Richard Albury
          Thomas Albury
          Jody Albury
          Cynthia Pinder

          by those 5 right now.

          Prescott said they’d pay for my legends . . .I sent Geneva a note telling her to buy them now. I’ll follow up with her later – I’m awaiting details from Maitland. But I am presuming the will ticket Maitland lowe & O’Donald McIntosh.

          I want to confirm with Dee Albury that he is coming before we buy his ticket. Someone told me he is sick. I just tried phoning his home but got no answer. Danny Sawyer already bought his ticket.

          So, please buy those 5 now while we can get “cheap” seats.

          Thanks!

          Cindy”

          I quote an excerpt from the document ‘WHY PRESCOTT SMITH SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM THE BOARD OF BFFIA”, Cindy gave out at the “Secret Meeting” in Nassau:

          “His view is too narrow and he only cares about guides rights and Bahamian’s rights”

          Now, if you were a guide or a Bahamian and say, you didn’t even know Prescott Smith and you were given that document, how would you vote?

          Let’s look at Benjamin Pratt; See the below the local Tribune Article in July 2013, as to why Benjamin was initially chosen to be the Association’s Executive Director:

          “#By NATARIO McKENZIE
          #Tribune Business Reporter
          #nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

          #Bahamians have gradually been squeezed out of the $142 million fly fishing industry by foreign “infiltration” over the past 20 years, reducing its impact on local businesses and job creation.
          #Benjamin Pratt,the Bahamian Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFFIA) executive director, said Bahamian participation in the sector had been made almost “non-competitive” despite its multi-million dollar annual economic impact.
          #The BFFIA, which was incorporated in 2012, is aiming to provide a voice for the industry and push for greater Bahamian participation. Mr Pratt said there was an urgent need to replenish the Bahamian bonefish guide population.
          #Speaking at the BFFIA’s first annual general meeting, Mr Pratt said: “A 2010 economic survey determined that the level of activity taking place in this sector is valued at some $142 million.
          #“We have a tremendous amount of natural resources. Fly fishing allows us as Bahamians to grow in this industry and do well in it. This industry is doing a tremendous amount of good for the Family Islands. This may be a $142 million industry, but a lot of that is probably not being received by local businesses.”
          #Mr Pratt added: “We are particularly interested in the protection of the industry for Bahamians. I say that because over the last 20 years we would have seen an infiltration of persons other than Bahamians who would have entered the market, and have been dominating it and have made Bahamian participation almost non-competitive.
          #“We are in the process of negotiating with the Ministry of Education with respect to conducting a cadet programme in the Family Islands. Young men who want to join the industry and become guides will be given the opportunity to do so.
          #“There is a need for us to replenish our guiding population, and the way to do it is to target youngsters in high school that have a potential for the industry.”
          #Mr Pratt said that there was a need for lodge owners and guides to refine their product and ensure they had the latest equipment.
          #“If you’re going to tell a guy you’re going to charge him $1,000 to go bonefishing, you can’t be breaking down on the road, your boat shouldn’t be breaking down, your trailer has to actually be able to roll,” he added.
          #“People are prepared to pay it, but you have to have working equipment. There is quite a disparity between those lodges that are owned by Bahamians and those that are owned by non-Bahamians, and that, I believe, contributes to the fact that they are getting more business than us.”
          #Mr Pratt said the Association was also looking to obtain duty-free concessions for imported equipment used by fly and bone fishing guides.
          #“We believe that the islands of the Bahamas are the best destination for fly fishing in the world,” Mr Pratt said.
          #“We sit on the broadest, most pristine flats anywhere else in the world; the shallow water, the mangroves and the warm weather allows us to have the biggest population of bonefish perhaps in the world. That is what people need to know and that is the message we’re going to put out there.”
          #Mr Pratt said the BFFIA would give an official voice to the industry and influence public policy relative to it.
          #He added that the industry has been allowed to develop without any kind of structure and accountability, and said the BFFIA was looking to establish a corporate office and increase its membership by 100 within the next year.
          #Its ultimate goal is to have a 300-strong membership within three years.”

          One month after the AGM and the above article, Benjamin Pratt, handed the newly formed Board a report. I take an excerpt from it:

          “The board may offer suggestions and ideas about how to improve the organization, but the Executive Director decides whether or not, and how, to implement these ideas.”

          As you would realize things went downhill from here. So for those of us who have sat or sit on Boards of NGOs, Associations and Corporations, that is definitely not how it is done!

          That’s my “five cents” as we say in the Bahamas.

    • Paul Pinder

      Cindy, I don’t know what you are talking about. You need to look up the word “rouge”. I think the word you are looking for is “rogue”. When have I ever been a “dishonest” or “mischievous” person.

      You say that I didn’t tell you or any of the members of the AFFGA that I was a Board Member of the BFFIA. I didn’t know, that you guys, were no longer members,of the BFFIA. I only found out, that you guys were not members, around the time, when Benjamine came to Abaco. Therefore I thought you knew. You would think with me being on the board of the BFFIA, giving Abaco a representation, would be well received by you and the group. But instead you were the one questioning my appointment.

      You say, you don’t know, how I “have the nerve to ride our buses”. I didn’t know that the buses were yours. I was told that buses would be at the Airport to transport the guides to the AGM. Cheryl Bastian was standing outside the terminal, she told all the guides standing outside that the buses was over there, pointing to two buses in the parking lot, to take the guides to the AGM. So I boarded the bus with the rest of the guides. Had I known it was your private charter, I would not had boarded the bus.

      Like you said you have known me for about 12 years. So you could wonder how I felt when I look in the Abaconian and see that the AFFGA had an election of officer. You know my phone number and not so much as a phone call from you, to say that you were having a meeting.

      When the AFFGA was formed one of the main issue we had was the Mega Yacht fish themselves, which is a form of DIY. When you say it is ok, for someone to rent a house, and fish on their own, as long as they get a licence, then the guy with the Mega Yacht would say he should be able to do it to. So I guess you are now saying it’s ok for whoever to come in the Bahamas and fish without a guide

      • Cindy James Pinder

        Paul,

        Thank you for the correction. I have always been a terrible speller and spell check doesn’t help much. My beef is not with you and it never has been. I have always considered you both an associate and friend. We have always worked well together and respected each other. The other day when you called me to buy some AFFGA hats I was looking forward to you stopping to pick them up because I wanted a chance to talk to you in person. (I’m still carrying the hats in my car in case I run into you.)

        You were notified of the Extraordinary Meeting by email, just like everybody else was, just like we always do. Every single member at the meeting was sorry that you did not attend. Every single one of us. I know you have data on your phone and internet access so there is absolutely no reason we would expect you did not receive the notification. I know the guides in North Abaco do not use the internet so I personally called them to advise them of the meeting just as I have always done for the past 6 years. Justin sent you and email that same night advising you of the change of officers. Please know that there is no satisfaction for any of us with how things have transpired and there was absolutely nothing underhanded about it and none of this was done to make you feel bad.

        You as the president of the AFFGA were the only member that I am aware of that is in agreement with the proposed draft legislation as it is. I suspect you can understand how the rest of the association would be confused with your alliance with BIFFA when you never shared it with anybody. I was told that there was a BIFFA meeting in Sandy Point, Abaco several months ago (I suspect to recruit members) but none of us was even asked to attend and you were our (AFFGA) president at the time. You were voted out of the position of president because being on the board of BFFIA was in conflict of the beliefs of our entire membership.

        We would still like you and any other members with different beliefs to be a part of the AFFGA as we should all be able to work together. As you know, as a founding member, the AFFGA was formed to give us one voice so we could try and make some changes in this industry. We do need regulation. Nobody is disputing that. That dispute is how it is being done. Alienating our clients is not an economic model that makes any sense. I would appreciate having this discussion with you in person. Is there a time convenient to you in the near future when we can talk?

        Kind Regards, Cindy

  • Valentino Munroe

    Am impressed at the level of international discussion the issue of Bahamian fishing regulations is generating. it does not take a lot to see that most of the concerns stems from those that are benefitting inequitably from Bahamas Fly Fishing. From the travel agencies that take 20% of the industry bookings to the second home owners that have the privilege of owing a home in the Bahamas and use their private home as a bed and breakfast offering DIY fishing as an attraction. These legislations are an attempt to address many issues that Bahamians feel are a threat to the fly fishing industry and to preserve the industry for the benefit of Bahamians. This is our right as an independent country. While Prescott Smith leads the National Fly Fishing Association (BFFIA), the group comprise of more than 200 members and has national support. It is a shame that some in the international community seek to discredit the President, and to seek to use scare tactics to encourage local guides and lodge owners into changing their views and position on many of the National concerns. The status quo can not remain. As a country, we will pursue our interest as is our God given right.

    • Kevin

      Let me ask you one question. After these regulations are passed, where are the customers of the BFFIA going to come from?

      • Geneva Wilson

        Kevin,

        Which regulations? Do you have a copy of the final proposed legislation? We will all be eagerly awaiting it!

        We agree the need for a fishing license, fees to be determined by Government. BFFIA’s clearly stated position does not ban Unguided Anglers (UGA). Our position as a National Association, is to
        find a happy medium and balance, in the best interest of our Members and the Bahamas, so that our affordable, healthy and sustainable industry can be around for a very, very long time for us ALL to enjoy.

        So the customers will continue to come from all around the world even the USA.

        • Kevin

          If the proposals of BFFIA were reasonable, which they are not, no one would be upset. So, don’t be disingenuous, no one has a copy of the final proposed legislation. Reasonable regulations, would mirror Florida, which bans no one from fishing their waters and reasonable license fees.

          Go ahead with these proposed regulations and you will inflame all of the customers from other countries that come to the Bahamas. What percentage of the Customers of the BFFIA are native Bahamians?

          • Geneva Wilson

            You are entitled to your opinion, Kevin. It doesn’t necessarily mean it “will fly”.

          • Cindy James Pinder

            0%

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  • Alex A.

    Stephen

    Setting the record straight, I do not know any of you in this commentary and never had the pleasure of being guided by Prescott. I just tell it, like I see it.

    “Back Petal”, “Back Step”, “Back Paddle”, “Go in Reverse”. Six, half a dozen! You understood clearly what I was saying.

    Pointing us, so now we have to substantiate what you’ve written, in the direction to speak to persons, again ‘word of mouth’, because you are unable to provide us with hard evidence, doesn’t make what you’ve stated any more true.

    Please let us stay on point at this junction, by having more meaningful and constructive discussions on pressuring the Bahamian Government not to ban DIY and that the fishing licenses will be used for conservation, education and enforcement.

  • Chris miller

    First to Mr Beasley.

    Sorry. Didn’t meanto imply issue was not important. It’s incredibly important to me and many others as we can see.

    Only that if we take the nber we keep hearing about it being a $155 mm biz as of 2010, and we assume it grew Chinese style at 10% per year ( a stretch) we’d end up around a $250mm impact. Against the Bahamian GDP of $9Bn in2014 it’s about round 3% of total GDP. About what Artsand Entertainment are in U.S. economy.

    So to the vast majority of Bahamians who live in Nassau etc, who have only seen a bonefish on a coin or (my favorite) ontheBatelco phone cards of the late 90s where they were on display rigged as marlin bait, no one is gonna miss it if the whole thing goes poof. Except those involved.

    Compared to Atlantis or Bahamar it’s a rounding error….not to mention offshore banking etc

    Again Outstanding work and your objectivity is crystal clear

    Can’t wait for round 2

    • Geneva Wilson

      The following link shows Prime Minister Christie’s position months before the
      last General Election of 2012 tasking Keod Smith with steering the setting up
      of what we all know now as BFFIA.

      Since 1999, Keod has been working with BFFIA’s current President, Prescott
      Smith, toward formalizing the flyfishing industry.

      Both Keod and Prescott met with PM Christie, Minister Obie Whilchcombe
      (Tourism) and Minister Alfred Gray (Marine Resources) after the PLP Government took office which led to BFFIA’S formation in 2012.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXYSKQIg5Tk

    • Beau Beasley

      Chris,

      Your points are as articulate as the are rational. I most also commend you that they are based on verifiable data. To some I would agree (even to some in the Bahamas) this is a tempest in a tea pot. However for those lodges and more importantly local guides, this could easily turn into a matter of economic survival. Should this bill be viewed as discouraging DIY anglers, it could have negative effects across the board.

      Stay tuned, tomorrow’s piece should answer a lot of your questions. Thanks again for the input, and great rational discussion points.

  • Kevin

    Rod, Well Said !….

    .. While I understand the Bahama Guides perspective and the desire to pass laws to increase their revenue, these proposals will have the opposite effect. I know a lot of guides in the States, and also know how difficult it is to make a living at it. It is very easy to look at financial problems and blame ‘outsiders’. We see this in the States with “Illegal Immigrants”. But, I am reminded of the adage. “For every Complex Problem, there is a Simple Solution that won’t work”.

  • Beau Beasley

    Rod,

    Thank you for your kind words about the article. I spent a great deal of time doing research so I could try to write about this, and explain it as accurately as possible. I also wanted to let all parties have their say. The next article which should come out later this week will go over some of the concerns about DIY fishing (I can’t list them all) and also how the money from the fishing license might be split, the conservation operations going on now, and what concerns lie ahead.

    Again, thanks for the kind words, I very much appreciate it. If you feel this article was helpful (or could be helpful to others) please by all means “share it”, tweet it, or link it back to it on your own site. I suspect you have a good many readers who might be interested in this issue.

    Thanks again, for your thoughtful comments.

    Beau

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  • timely article guys. Bone fish is one my favorite fishes when it comes to fishing. Love the way they are fighting back. Thanks for this details article and images. Hope this will start a conversation about this.