NASSAU, BAHAMAS Lawyers for a group of Bahamian women and their foreign husbands have filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the Fisheries Bill, 2020, is unconstitutional and discriminatory.
The bill repeals the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977, and prevents individuals who are not citizens of The Bahamas fromengaging in commercial fishing.
An amendment to the Immigration Act further ensures that work permits arenot granted for commercial fishing.
The originating summons, filed on January 8, is seeking a stay of implementation of the bill and amendment.
It is seeking an injunction, pending the determination of the action or until further order, to restrain the respondents from taking any action to prevent, impede, hinder or otherwise interfere with the work or business of the applicants included in the litigation.
A permanent injunction is also being sought to restrain the respondents and against the enforcement of the articles.
The action is also seeking a declaration that Sections 31 and 32 of the Fisheries Act, 2020 and the Immigration (Amendment) Act, 2020 constitute arbitrary and discriminatory treatment of two of the applicants and Bahamian women whose husbands hold spousal permits or permanent residency.
It is seeking a declaration that the articles of the Act in question breach the constitutional rights of two of the applicants, as holders of spousal permits or permanent residency with the unrestricted right to work, in prohibiting them from continuing to practice their profession as commercial fishing divers.
It is also seeking a declaration that the articles are in breach of Article 26 of the Constitution and will have a discriminatory effect on the applicants as Bahamian citizen-owned commercial fishing enterprises.
The applicants include Morazan Zunig Jackson and Jaime Reynaldo Perez, who are foreign spouses of Bahamian women; their wives, Maria Jackson and Raquel Anthonya Major-Perez; and a number of commercial fishing enterprises Fish Farmers Ltd, Three Ro Bahamas Ltd, 3 Kids Corp Bahamas Ltd, Audley Seafood Ltd, Percival Roberts (D/B/A Geneva Brass Seafood) and Paradise Fisheries Ltd.
The applicants are seeking declarations that the articles in question are unlawful, discriminatory, remove the protection of the law and contravene the fundamental rights of the applicants as set out in the Constitution.
A declaration is being sought that the articles deprive two of the applicants of their reasonable expectation to continue to practice their profession as commercial fishing divers, with a compressor license from the Department of Marine Resources, without affording them a right to be heard in court, to have natural justice, due process and the protection of the law.
The applicants are also seeking a declaration that given the draconian effect of the articles, the applicants had a reasonable expectation that they would have been consulted before any amendments were made to the Immigration Act and Fisheries Act that would totally prohibit them, as industry stakeholders, from continuing to work in their profession.
The group is also seeking damages; orders, writs or directions that may be appropriate to secure the enforcement of any right or freedom of the applicants; and further or other relief and costs.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard; Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson; and Attorney General Carl Bethel are listed as respondents in the matter.
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