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.

 

Snapper/Grouper species:
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.

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 that the skin remains intact on the entire fillet of any snapper-grouper carcasses, valid Bahamian fishing and cruising permits are on board the vessel, each person on the vessel has a valid government passport with current stamps and dates from The Bahamas, and the vessel is in transit through the South Atlantic EEZ with fishing gear appropriately stowed. 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.

For the purpose of this paragraph, fishing gear appropriately stowed means that terminal gear (i.e., hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers (also known as planers or weights) must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately. See § 622.187(a)(3) for the limit of snapper-grouper fillets lawfully harvested from Bahamian waters that may transit through the South Atlantic EEZ.

 

Dolphinfish/Wahoo:
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. You cannot transport or possess any dolphin or wahoo while in or on the waters of the EEZ in violation of Federal regulations. This includes closures, seasons and bag limits. 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. 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).

50 CFR 622.276(b)

In the Atlantic EEZ, dolphin or wahoo lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters are exempt from the requirement that they be maintained with head and fins intact, provided that the skin remains intact on the entire fillet of any dolphin or wahoo carcasses, valid Bahamian fishing and cruising permits are on board the vessel, each person on the vessel has a valid government passport with current stamps and dates from The Bahamas, and the vessel is in transit through the Atlantic EEZ with fishing gear appropriately stowed. For the purpose of this paragraph, a vessel is in transit through the Atlantic EEZ when it is on a direct and continuous course through the Atlantic EEZ and no one aboard the vessel fishes in the EEZ. For the purpose of this paragraph, fishing gear appropriately stowed means that terminal gear (i.e.,hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, handline, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separately from such fishing gear. Sinkers must be disconnected from the down rigger and stowed separately.

 

  • Florida recognizes the above provisions in 50 CFR for vessels in direct and continuous transit.
  • Fishing gear must be stowed while transiting U.S. federal waters from The Bahamas. Vessels carrying fillets of dolphin, wahoo, or snapper/grouper species lawfully harvested in Bahamian waters are not permitted to stop in U.S. federal waters during transit
  • Two fillets equals one fish for dolphin, wahoo, and snapper/grouper species brought into U.S. federal waters from The Bahamas
  • Leaving the skin on the entire fillet is now a requirement to aid in species identification and expedite the inspection of your vessel if you are stopped and boarded by law enforcement.

 

Conch:
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  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.)

 

Lobster:
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.
  • 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.


FWC Facts:
Groupers are very slow-growing fish, taking anywhere from 4-8 years to reach sexual maturity.

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