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Visits were made to a number of persons in several Government Ministries to obtain information relating to the development of aquaculture regulations. The list appears as Appendix “A”. Some of the information obtained in the course of these interviews, and the views of the officials, are summarized briefly below.

1. Ministry of Health:

Glen Archer, Director, Environmental Health
Services; John Hartley, Public Analyst.

The Health Services Act contains no specific standards or regulations controlling pollution or industrial threats to health, but the Ministry has broad authority to control the operation of industrial activities and to regulate the design of industrial facilities to protect public health. No environmental studies were done before most of the existing industrial plants were built, but such studies are now required; the Ministry has a big role in approving new industrial proposals to evaluate the possible impacts on the environment. The Ministry is developing a plan of action, including Government monitoring of industrial activity. The Ministry has a set of guidelines for approving proposed construction and industrial procedures and permits.

New environmental health services legislation is being drafted which will specify the authorities of the Ministry of Health more clearly. Its enactment has been delayed because of disagreement between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government over some aspects of authority over the food industries.

2. Ministry of Economic Affairs:

Colin C. Deane, Permanent Secretary; Roosevelt Butler, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Marco Rolle, Economist; Kenneth Butler, Economist.

This Ministry is responsible for encouraging the establishment and continued operation of industries. It administers the Industries Encouragement Act of 1970 which offers a series of six concessions to new industry: 1. Equipment is allowed to be imported duty free into The Bahamas during the first year; 2. Raw material is allowed to be imported duty free for the life of the business; 3. Relief from real property taxes is given for 15 years; 4. The Bahamas imposes no income taxes or corporation taxes; 5. No export taxes are charged on products made in the business; 6. No import taxes are charged against materials used to expand buildings or operations.

The Industries Encouragement Act does not apply to aquaculture since fish farming is not an industry under the definitions of the Act: no manufactured product is produced.

The concession of import duty relief can be obtained for aquaculture under the Tariff Act, but other special concessions of the Industries Encouragement Act are not available.

3. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government-Department of Lands and Surveys:

Hing Cheong, Director of Lands and Surveys.

Crown land is leased by this Department for farming, and subaquatic land could be leased for aquaculture under similar rules. For terrestrial farm land the length of the lease depends in part on the size of the investment, either for 5 or 10 years. The amount of rent for leased land depends on its quality: good land rents for $25 an acre, down to $10 per acre for the poorest land; subaquatic land would probably be leased at the lower figure. A lease can be transferred or land can be sub-leased with the permission of the Department.

The Ministry of Transport must approve a lease if transport is affected. Wharf construction on the leased land would require the approval of the Ministries of Transport, Works and Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government.

Riparian rights are said not to exist in The Bahamas; The Government owns land seaward of the high tide mark.

The Government has designated five areas of the country as being of special interest in respect to the encouragement of aquaculture: Andros Island, the Southeast Islands, the Abacos, Grand Bahama Island, and Northern Eleuthera.

4. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government:

George A. Smith, Minister.

The Minister expressed the view that encouragement should be given to the development of aquaculture in The Bahamas, with the following guiding principles:

  1. The aquaculture activity should provide food for local consumption or for export to provide foreign exchange.

  2. The activity should provide as much employment as possible and should therefore use labour-intensive methods, employing especially women where possible.

  3. Aquaculture activities should include those which require a small investment, so that small-scale operators can become involved.

  4. Aquaculture systems developed here should concentrate on the marine species, because of the shortage of fresh water in the country.

  5. Strict control should be maintained over the introduction of exotic species, with their possible threats to native species.

5. The Bahamas National Trust:

Basil Kelly, President.

The need for protected areas was stressed, to increase the enforcement of laws prohibiting the capture of endangered or scarce animals, or those that have been raised in captivity and released to replenish depleted stocks. The difficulty of preventing theft of cultured animals has been a major constraint to the development of some kinds of aquaculture in The Bahamas, notably conch and sponges. The National Trust has proposed a substantial increase in the amount of protected marine areas in the country. Aquaculture could still operate in such protected areas as long as the activity complied with the conservation rules. Such areas could have a strongly beneficial effect on fish farming by providing better enforcement and patrol.

6. The Office of the Attorney General -

Ricardo Marques, Attorney and Legal Draftsman, Department of Legal Affairs.

The Police Act, and another Act relating to private security guards might be looked at concerning the appointment of special constables and their powers.

Aquaculture could qualify for benefits under the Industries Encouragement Act if it were redefined to make it an industry under the meaning of the Act.

7. Ministry of Finance:

Mrs. E. C. Isaacs, Permanent Secretary.

Import duties provide an important fraction of the revenue of The Bahamas, which does not impose certain other taxes, including income taxes and corporation taxes. But about 50% of imported goods comes into the country free of import tax, and the Ministry of Finance is under continuous pressure by various interests both to extend and to restrict this privilege. Under the Tariff Act, administered by the Ministry, aquaculture activities can (and have) qualified for exemption from import taxes on vessels, engines, fishing gear, processing equipment and other materials.

The Agricultural Manufactories Act can serve as a guide for the duty free policy in respect to aquaculture.

8. The Bahamas Development Bank:

Warren Rolle, Managing Director.

The Bank makes loans at favourable interest rates to industries which want to start or expand in the Bahamas. The Bank would like to encourage the development of aquaculture in the country, since it regards this activity as a promising one here. But the Bank does not have funds for research and development, lending only to industries with proven production records and established technologies. Aquaculture in The Bahamas still lacks the assurance of success and profitability to satisfy the Bank's requirements.


This section was to have dealt with a slightly different topic, namely “Aquaculture regulations in other countries with similar social, economic and environmental conditions”. But it proved difficult to find such regulations--not only for countries with social, economic and environmental conditions similar to those in The Bahamas, but indeed for many countries of any description. This can be attributed in part to the relative newness of aquaculture as a commercial activity in most countries, and to the common pattern of aquaculture legislation not existing as separate statutes but instead being scattered among laws relating to fisheries, environmental protection, protection of human health and other aspects of human activity.

The brief discussion that follows, therefore, deals with legislation and regulations that refer to aquaculture in several countries for which information was available. Some of these countries do not resemble The Bahamas in size or in any of the attributes listed in the original title of the section, but their experience in aquaculture promotion and control may nonetheless be helpful in the present project of developing a legal system for The Bahamas.

1. Japan

Japan is one of the leading aquaculture nations of the world, producing a great quantity and variety of products from aquatic farms. This activity is ancient in Japan, going back at least to the first century AD.

In spite of this position as a leading aquaculture nation, Japan does not have a single, cohesive aquaculture statute. Instead the authority for Government support and control of fish farming is derived from a series of laws relating principally to fisheries for wild stocks and to water pollution control, as well as to certain restricted aspects of aquaculture. It is chiefly from these laws that regulations related to fish farming are derived.

The First Fisheries Law was passed in 1901; it was replaced only in 1951. The first specific fish farming law was the Salmon and Trout Culture Act of 1919, which sought to regularize the hatchery and planting activities for salmonids that began in the 1870's, using techniques borrowed from the United States. The Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station Act of 1929 was passed to encourage the development of (mostly) salmon hatcheries and new culture techniques. The Law Promoting Pearl Culture of 1951 was designed to promote that aspect of aquaculture.

The burst of industrialization that preceded World War II contributed to a serious increase in water pollution in the fresh and marine waters of Japan, with widespread impacts on the health of the people, and on industries like fish farming. In response, a series of statutes were passed by the Japanese Diet, including The Water Pollution Control Act of 1958, and the Environmental Protection Law of 1967. These have a significant impact on aquaculture, both protecting it and imposing constraints.

Two more recent laws which promulgated with the express purpose of promoting aquaculture were the Law Promoting Coastal Fisheries of 1963 and the Coastal Fishing Ground Adjustment and Development Law of 1974.

Thus, despite the absence of a single aquaculture statute, Japan has served this industry well in respect of laws providing support and protection for fish farming. Some authorities are of the opinion that the scattered nature of laws and regulations relating to fish farming in Japan requires an “urgent examination” and consolidation into a coherent act.

2. The Philippines

Aquaculture is important in the Philipines, and this importance is increasing under an active policy on the part of the Government to encourage and promote the industry. The Philippines is substantially in advance of The Bahamas in fish farming, but there are parallels between the two countries that make the experience of the Asian country of more than ordinary use to The Bahamas. Both are island nations surrounded by warm seas; cage and pen culture is a major kind of fish farming in the Philippines, and this appears to be one of the more promising kinds in The Bahamas; brackish water culture is common in the Philippines, and this will be one of the most useful kind of fish farming in The Bahamas because of the shortage of fresh water here; the waters in both countries are relatively unpolluted.

Laws and regulations promoting and controlling Filipino fish farming derive mostly from two Presidential Decrees: #704, (1975) roughly equivalent to a federal fisheries law, and #1159. Presidential Decree #704 provides a statement that it is national policy to promote and encourage aquaculture. It declares fishing and fish farming to be “preferred areas of investment”. It creates a “Fishing Industry Development Council” with an impressive membership including six Cabinet Members and the heads of four major banks. The Council is directed to meet at least once a month. Its function is to form policy guidelines for aquaculture, and to create a healthy investment climate for this industry (e.g., by providing credit and loans at preferred rates).

Of great interest is the provision in Presidential Decree #704 that forbids the sale of public land that is suitable for fish ponds, and directs that it be leased for aquaculture. Leases are for 25 years with renewal possible for an additional 25 years. But the lessee must put at least half the land into aquaculture production within three years and the remainder within five years.

Presidential Decree #704 and Presidential Decree #1159, the Agriculture Investment Incentives Act, both authorize financial assistance to aquaculture in the forms of substantial tax exemptions, reductions, credits and deferrals. Loans are authorized by the Fishery Loan and Guarantee Bank of the Philippines to qualified borrowers for constructing ponds or for raising, processing or marketing fish, with 85% of losses sustained from default of the loan guaranteed to the lending institution.

The overall tone of the Government documents relating to aquaculture is positive, reflecting a decided bias in favour of the fish farmer.

3. Hong Kong

The fish farming activity in Hong Kong is of more than casual interest to The Bahamas since cage culture for several species of fish is well developed, and this technique may be especially useful here.

Hong Kong has a special aquaculture law, the Marine Fish Culture Ordinance of 1980. It is rooted in British common law precepts. Under this Ordinance the Director of Aquaculture may designate any areas of the waters of Hong Kong as a “fish culture zone” (apparently at the expense of the riparian rights of property owners, and of rights of navigation). Extensive powers are given to the Director of Fisheries to control the conduct of the fish farming business. The ordinance gives the power to “any authorized person” to arrest anyone polluting in the fish culture zone. The Ordinance seems to be deficient in not providing for aquaculture leases, and not prohibiting the importation of exotic species without prior safeguards being imposed.

4. Israel

The condition of aquaculture in Israel is a curious one. On the one hand the industry is a highly important supplier of protein (56% of the fish produced in the country are from farms), and the Government gives aquaculture strong policy and technical support. On the other hand, the Government is obliged to limit the expansion of fish farming because of the shortage of fresh water in Israel. As a consequence the amount of area given over to fish farming is declining slightly. Attempts are being made to compensate for this by expanding brackish water aquaculture, by increasing the use of polyculture--the growing of more than one species in the same body of water--and by employing closed systems of recirculated water.

There is no single aquaculture statute governing or encouraging fish farming in Israel. Agriculture law and a Public Health Ordinance (1940) provide the authority for aquaculture regulations and support. This support is strong, including research, instruction and advice from trained and experienced experts. The industry has organized an effective Fish Breeders Association which advices and collaborates closely with the Government research and extension apparatus.

5. Australia

Aquaculture in Australia is active and expanding. The main species raised are oysters, trout and freshwater crayfish.

The principal authority for aquaculture rests with the States. Queensland provides in its Fisheries Act for oyster leases. Tasmania has a brief Fisheries Act (1959) which gives the Minister considerable leeway in regulations controlling and encouraging aquaculture; fish farm leases can be given for 20 years. The Fisheries Act of South Australia allows the Minister to grant an exclusive franchise to take fish of a particular species in a particular stretch of water. None of these States has a special aquaculture act.

The State of New South Wales is different from the others in having passed a special Fisheries and Oyster Farms Act which deals in an exhaustive manner with fish farming, as well as with capture fisheries. The Act allows the capture of wild fish for culture purposes, overcoming the common problem (shared now by The Bahamas) that many fisheries laws cripple fish farming activities through the prohibition against capture or possession of small individuals or egg-bearing females. The Act provides for research by the State in support of aquaculture. It allows Crown land to be reserved for experimentation on fish farming. It prohibits the release into State waters of fish or eggs without specific written permission. The Act specifies disease control measures that a fish farmer must take. Overall, the Act is supportive of the aquaculture industry, but it presents a formidable and complex set of requirements to the prospective and operating aquaculturist.

6. New Zealand

New Zealand has cultured fish for a long time, the activity going back into the last century when a great deal of effort was expended in attempts to introduce salmon and trout from North America. Some of these efforts were notably successful, including one of the earliest establishments of Pacific salmon in foreign waters. The Acclimatization Societies that carried out these introductions are still in existence, and they have an important role in New Zealand aquaculture.

Perhaps partly because of the long history of fish culture in New Zealand, the country has a complex body of laws promoting and controlling aquaculture. The first of these was the Fisheries Act of 1908. It authorized regulations for leasing Crown lands and for licensing fish farming operations for salmon and trout. The Marine Fish Farming Act of 1971 includes exhaustive regulations, but excludes salmon and trout, whose control is left to the old Fisheries Act. The 1971 Act makes it possible for a bay or other stretch of coastal water to be declared a prohibited anchorage or prohibited navigation area, withdrawing its use for other commercial or sport fishing purposes. This Act also provides for the control of diseased fish.

In 1972 the Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations were put into force. They control the kind of fish that may be raised and the disposal of waste from the fish farming operation, as well as impose some control over disease; the farmer must report disease among his fish, and dispose of diseased fish and contaminated water. Written permission must be obtained to introduce non-native species into the water. This Act gives property owners adjacent to the fish farm substantial rights.

The Water and Soil Conservation Act of 1967 has a strong impact on fish farming operations. It controls the use of water, requiring the would-be fish farmer to apply for the right to take or discharge water.

There is not much communication among agencies apparently, with no single place for the aquaculturist to apply for the various licences: the water permit, the licence to operate a fish farm, and permission from the local acclimitization society (which has the right of review of the application).

7. The Gambia

Most countries of the world have not yet found it necessary to include specific references to aquaculture in their fishery legislation or regulations. Some, like The Gamia on the west coast of Africa, have brief sections in their laws referring to aquaculture, but they amount to little more than legal authorization for this activity. In the Gambian Fisheries Act of 1977, Part VII, there is a short section on aquaculture which (a) instructs the Director of Fisheries to “… promote the development of aquaculture … through … research and extension services and the promotion of markets;” (b) provides for the leasing of public lands for the establishment of farms for oysters, shrimp, freshwater fishes, and other aquaculture species; (c) provides for the issuance of permits to set up and operate an aquaculture establishment, and for the charging of fees for those permits; (d) provides for the licencing officer to prescribe conditions in respect to the permits which may control the siting and construction of the establishment, its operation, the quality and sanitation of products, the prevention of disease, and the marketing of the fish and fishery products; (e) provides authority for the adoption of schemes for the sanitary control of the supply of oysters or other shellfish, including depuration, purification and detoxification. None of the procedures authorized to be used or the rules to be imposed are specified in the law, nor are they detailed in the Fisheries Regulations, 1978, that resulted from the law. Apparently considerable local interpretation is permitted.

8. Norway

Norway has a substantial salmon and trout farming industry, operating about 250 farms in salt water. The country has specific legislation to control this activity, including regulations on water use and pollution, fish diseases, the importation of live animals, and the licensing of farms. The water pollution laws are among the toughest in the world. This protects the fish farmer by helping provide water of high quality, but it also constitutes constraint by reason of the cost of complying with discharge and water pollution regulations. There is a voluntary control and inspection system in operation to prevent diseased fish from entering Norwegian waters. There are regulations controlling the treatment of diseased fish and restricting their movements.

9. Finland

This is an example of a country where the absence of a statute and the pressure of restrictive land and water regulations is probably inhibiting the aquaculture industry from expanding. In a land where the integrity of the fresh waters is very important, public opinion regards fish farming as a polluting activity. Fish farmers believe that the pollution laws are too restrictive.

There is no aquaculture act, and the regulations are criticized as being expensive and time-consuming to comply with. The lease of land is short--five years. A prospective fish farmer must perform an extensive fish stock and vegetative survey as a preliminary to his application for a lease and licence. The upper size of aquaculture facilities is restricted.

10. Sweden

Sweden has a relatively small aquaculture operation; the main species raised are salmon and trout. The smallness of the industry is partly related to the high concern over protection of the aquatic environment (a common concern in all of Scandenavia). Aquaculture is regulated by the fisheries and water control statutes, there being no specific aquaculture law. The Environmental Protection Act and the Environmental Ordinance have substantial control over aquaculture operations, imposing many regulations concerning water quality.

11. Denmark

Most fish farming in Denmark consists of pond trout culture in Jutland. This industry has a long history, going back into the last century. It is famous for the high quality of its products. In recent years it has encountered problems with disease, and some countries have banned the importation of Danish trout. This, and the shortage of fresh water, have slowed expansion of the industry.

There are no special laws relating to aquaculture in Denmark, the industry being controlled by a number of fishery, water and other laws, and by administrative orders.

12. United Kingdom

Aquaculture in England and Scotland faces problems associated with developed countries: shortage of suitable land and water areas where fish farming can be conducted, and a maze of regulations and restrictions scattered through various laws. Licencing is complicated, involving many agencies. Expansion and development of the industry in England is hampered by the lack of a single unifying act, resulting in few small operators getting into business; the industry is mostly in the hands of large corporations. In Scotland the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act has been a positive factor, and aquaculture in that part of the country has developed more rapidly.

13. Spain

Spain is actively encouraging aquaculture, partly in response to the loss of fish production by the distant water fleet following the establishment of exclusive fishing zones by North American and other countries. Spain has passed two pieces of aquaculture legislation, one for freshwater and one for marine water. They provide for licences for ten years, with the possibility of renewal. A maritime Authority licence application must describe the technical operations planned, with the proposal being designed by a scientist. The Health Authority prescribes the rules relating to pollution control, on which great emphasis is placed. A special licence is required to transport or export fishery products, or to import live fish. Control of disease is strict.

14. United States

Aquaculture in the United States goes back to the 1880's when restocking programs were started by the Federal Government both in fresh water (for salmon and trout) and in the sea. Efforts to restock depleted populations fell out of favour when results were poor, but salmon “ranching” efforts have revived this practice in recent years for these fish. Most of the fish farming activity in the United States centers in fresh water, where large quantities of catfish and trout are raised. In brackish water oysters and salmon are raised.

The United States has a special statute for the encouragement and control of aquaculture, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980. It contains a statement of policy supporting aquaculture, and it authorizes programmes of education and technical assistance to fish farmers. These and other forms of encouragement to aquaculture provided in the Act are slow in being implemented because of budget constraints, but it is believed that the existence of the statute has been of help in promoting the industry.

In addition to the Aquaculture Act there are many other laws which affect the conduct of fish farming: about 120 federal laws and many state and municipal laws. Most of these were enacted without reference to fish farming, and were passed to protect or control water quality, land use, business practices, worker safety, product quality, disease control and other matters. These laws are implemented by hundreds of regulations, some of which are contraining to the fish farmer. Some 15 to 20 Federal agencies may at one time or another become involved in the control of aquaculture, with three--the Departments of Agriculture, Interior and Commerce--being the most active. Several laws control water use and pollution, including dredge and fill activities. Licences for aquaculture are often delayed pending the collection of ecological data on probable effects of the construction of pond and other fish farming facilities. Several agencies are involved, increasing the chance of delay.

Licences are needed to operate fish hatcheries and fish breeding programmes, to catch wild fish for brood stock, to import fish or young. Live animals imported or moved must be certified free of disease, and a shortage of inspectors sometimes delays activities. The incidence of fish disease is often high in farms, and control with drugs is essential. but many of the drugs have not been cleared for that particular use and the fish farmer is sometimes in violation of the law. Clearance of drug use is a prolonged and costly affair.

State and local municipality regulations add another layer of difficulty for the American fish farmer. Altogether he faces a complex task in trying to make a profit at this business.

15. Canada

Canada is a country that is only now beginning to feel the need to assist its aquaculture industry by means of legislation. At the moment there is no single aquaculture law, but rather a series of provisions in regulations enacted under the authority of the Fisheries Act. These regulations require licences or permits to conduct fish farming and to introduce or transport fish. There are also federal oyster leasing requirements on the east coast of Canada, and shellfish sanitation controls. The major federal initiative that impacts on culturists is the Fish Health Regulations. Federal legislation also deals with inspection before marketing. These are highly detailed and specific and reflect concern about the spread of disease.

The various Canadian Provinces have substantial constitutional authority to deal with the property aspects of aquaculture. Nova Scotia has recently (1983) used this power to pass a significant Aquaculture Act that deals comprehensively with the subject: development areas are to be designated, imports controlled, culturist licensed, subaquatic lands leased, personal property rights created and financial incentives provided. British Columbia has formulated policies and taken initiatives but has not yet brought its legislation up-to-date, although they will likely move in that direction shortly. Other provinces will likely do the same, but there is first a need to strike an accord between the federal and provincial governments as to which level of government will do what: cooperative federalism must be brought to bear. More could be done in most areas to help the fish farmer in Canada to overcome the difficult hurdles involved in establishing an aquaculture operation.

16. Conclusion

It is apparent from the review of aquaculture legislation and regulations of the countries available to us that few of them have specific statutes relating to this industry. And since the countries examined include many of the most important fish farming nations, it is likely that this pattern prevails throughout the world. Although in some countries aquaculture appears to do well without specific legislation, depending on statutes passed for other purposes (fisheries, water use and pollution control, business practices, worker safety, produce quality, and others), the existence of special aquaculture acts seems to be of value. One advantage of a specific aquaculture act is that it draws attention to the industry as an activity separate from capture fisheries and from agriculture, and this can make it easier to develop appropriate regulations, research and development activities, and sympathetic government and public attitudes that can make the difference between profit and loss in a fish farming enterprise. Another significant value of specific aquaculture legislation is that it can collect into one document governmental development provisions and regulations controlling fish farming that are otherwise scattered among a large number of laws.

Whether or not a special aquaculture statute exists in a country, it would be helpful to the industry for the government to provide a guide to the procedures necessary to start and operate a commercial fish farm. Often there are so many licences, leases and other requirements that the prospective aquaculturist is hard put to find them all, and to discover how to comply with them efficiently. To overcome this the Canadian province of British Columbia, the U.S. State of Hawaii, and the country of the Philippines have prepared highly useful lists of the requirements, and step-by-step guides of how to proceed.

Another valuable service that a government can provide to fish farmers is to make the application system as simple as possible, and to centralize it so that the prospective or continuing aquaculturist can fulfill his obligations in one or two offices, quickly and inexpensively.

Most governments are supportive of the growth and well-being of commercial aquaculture in their country since a large and profitable industry provides many benefits in terms of food production, foreign exchange, employment and tax revenues. Some governments do not translate this attitude of support effectively into action. The Bahamas, starting the process of legislation and regulations at an early stage in the development of the industry, has an unusually good chance of providing concrete assistance to prospective fish farmers.

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