By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEARLY 20 Dominican poachers admitted yesterday to plundering Bahamian waters of nearly 3,000 pounds worth of fisheries last week.
The 17 Dominican poachers, ranging in age from 23 to 53, all entered guilty pleas to raiding the country’s seas of 2,943 pounds of fish last Thursday.
Of that number, 2,154 pounds were that of undersized crawfish; 772 pounds were that of undersized Nassau Grouper; six pounds each of egg bearing crawfish and Caribbean reef shark; and five pounds of undersized stone crab claws.
One of the group, 28-year-old Elbison Tabenas, admitted to being in possession of 34 rounds of shotgun ammunition he intended to supply to others.
He and his 16 compatriots further admitted to being caught with two spear guns, which are illegal fishing apparatus’ in the Bahamas.
The arraignment of the 17 poachers came after a 76-ft Dominican vessel was spotted in the Cochinos Banks, Ragged Island by a US aircraft last Thursday.
According to reports, after the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the US Coast Guard were alerted, RBDF officials said HMBS Cascarilla under the command of Senior Lieutenant Samantha Hart was dispatched to the area.
The Dominican vessel, which contained a large quantity of fishery products, and its occupants were detained by RBDF marines and were subsequently taken to New Providence.
After pleading guilty to the offence, one of the Dominicans indicated that they are all fathers trying to provide for their children. Another asked Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt to “have mercy” upon them “in the name of God”.
Another promised the chief magistrate that if allowed to leave the country, they would never return.
However, Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt said while the group can be assured they will be dealt with fairly in her court, she would not address their individual and/or collective pleas for mercy without being fully apprised of the facts of the matter from the prosecution.
She subsequently adjourned the matter to today. The 17 poachers were remanded to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services until that time.
They are represented by lawyer Howard Thompson Jr.