Taking a fishing trip to the Bahamas? Know your limits.
Summary of Regulations for Bringing Back Marine Species from the Bahamas by Vessel
Prepared by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources
The information below pertains to private recreational vessels that have lawfully entered and exited Bahamian Customs, have obtained the proper Bahamian fishing and/or cruising permits, and have lawfully harvested the species according to Bahamian rules and regulations. These vessels must be in direct and continuous transit through Federal and State waters. Vessel operators that have not complied with the above conditions and are in possession of product from the Bahamas with the intent to land in Florida will be considered to be in violation of Bahamian law and may be subject to Lacy Act violations as well as referral to Bahamian authorities.
Bahamian regulations allow for no more than 60 pounds of fillets, or 20 whole scale fish PER VESSEL, NOT PER PERSON. You cannot transport or possess any snapper/grouper species while in or on the waters of the EEZ in violation of Federal regulations. This includes closures, seasons and bag limits. In summary, the number of fillets must not exceed whole fish bag limits for the EEZ. You may not possess any fish under a closure or any prohibited species, regardless of condition, whole or filleted, even if legal in Bahamian waters. Those snapper grouper species that can be legally possessed in the EEZ may be brought back as fillets.
50 CFR 622.38(h) In the South Atlantic EEZ, snapper-grouper lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters are exempt from the requirement that they be maintained with head and fins intact, provided valid Bahamian fishing and cruising permits are on board the vessel and the vessel is in transit through the South Atlantic EEZ. For the purpose of this paragraph, a vessel is in transit through the South Atlantic EEZ when it is on a direct and continuous course through the South Atlantic EEZ and no one aboard the vessel fishes in the EEZ.
- Florida recognizes the above provision in 50 CFR for vessels in direct and continuous transit.
- Although not a requirement, leaving the skin on fillets will aid in species identification and may expedite the inspection of your vessel if you are stopped and boarded by law enforcement.
Bahamian regulations only address wahoo, dolphin, kingfish and tuna. For those species, you are allowed to possess 18 fish in any combination, PER VESSEL while in Bahamian waters. When returning to Florida and on the waters of the EEZ you must adhere to Federal size and possession limits. All fish must have head and tail intact. For other pelagic species caught in Bahamian waters, and returning to Florida, refer and adhere to Federal regulations found in 50CFR 622, or 50CFR 635 for Highly Migratory Species (HMS).
Queen conch is considered a protected species in Florida. Even though Bahamian rules allow the possession of 6 conch per vessel, there is no exception which allows private recreational vessels to bring queen conch back to Florida from the Bahamas (68B-16.003(1)), even if lawfully purchased there. Contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service for their regulations if you wish to transport conch by air carrier back to Florida or other locations in the U.S. (CITES documents may be required.)
The Bahamian VESSEL possession limit is 10. Bahamian rules allow you to possess whole or tailed lobster while in or on Bahamian waters; however, when returning to Florida the lobster you bring back must be in whole condition (head and tail intact). You may only bring back whole lobster, and only during the open season in Florida, August 6th – March 31st. (68B-24.005(1)). Lobster lawfully harvested by spear in the Bahamas can be returned to Florida.
- Any species not listed above that are brought back to Florida from any foreign waters by means of private recreational vessel must have been lawfully harvested in those foreign waters and shall comply with State and Federal regulations.
- In situations where a species is closed in Federal waters, but open in State waters, enforcement will defer to the Federal regulation.
- Citizens are encouraged to check regulations before departing to and returning from foreign waters. http://www.safmc.net/FishIDandRegs/RegulationsbySpecies/tabid/248/Default.aspx http://www.bahamas.com/bahamas/regulations-0
- Individuals may ship back any legally harvested or purchased fish, conch, or lobster back to the US by air carrier as specified by Bahamian and U.S. regulations.