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(March 24, 2020)
A corner of the fishing world that had remained open to sportfishing – namely, The Bahamas – has just been shut down by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. Do not try to board a Bahamas-bound plane or boat, as access to the country has been denied to all visitors with immediate effect. Visitors already in the country are ordered to get out immediately, including everyone there on a private boat. The scramble for fuel and other necessities in marinas around the country is said to be intense. The current Emergency Order expires March 31, but it is expected to renewed for the foreseeable future. Here is the full text of the lockdown order:
The Ministry of Tourism & Aviation has asked that your attention be directed to the following aspects of the emergency order now in effect:
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread of COVID-19, with immediate effect –
- Except without prior written permission of the Competent Authority), all airports including private airports and fixed-base operations (FBOs) shall be closed to incoming international flights carrying any visitor;
- All sea ports shall be closed to regional and international seafaring and private boating; and
- No visitor shall be permitted to enter and disembark for any reason including transiting through The Bahamas.
The restrictions do not apply to:
(a) outgoing flights or ships, as the case may be;
(b) cargo flights or cargo ships, as the case may be;
(c) commercial courier flights;
(d) emergency medical flights;
(e) emergency flights approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.”
No person shall offer for hire or seek to travel on any –
- Mail boat, sailing inter island, except for transport of freight; or
- Inter island private commercial sea transport, provided that the Competent Authority may vary any of the requirements [noted in this] Order.”
The reason for the abrupt shutdown, of course, is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It does not indicate any loss of interest in tourism on the part of the government or lack of concern for inconvenienced travelers. The abruptness of the order is due to genuine fear that the country’s health system will be overwhelmed. The text of a national address on the emergency order by the Prime Minister can be found below. It’s a bit heartbreaking to read, but it will provide insight into the thinking of government. The proper response on our part as anglers who travel is sympathy and understanding. Anyone with a long-term relationship with a guide or lodge may want to wire funds for an advanced booking. – Don Causey, Editor Emeritus, [email protected].
Postscript: I’m indebted to Robert Ulrich of GoFishBahamas for word of the Bahamas closure, [email protected].