AG: Minnis administration passed research law without proper

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The law requiring a permit for marine and environmental research in The Bahamas was passed by the former administration without due diligence, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said yesterday as he foreshadowed changes to the legislation.

Former Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira argued last year that the Biological Resources and Traditional Knowledge Act would let The Bahamas demand respect and appropriate compensation for research involving its resources.

The law requires that researchers pay a non-refundable annual permit registration application fee of $1,500 to do research in the country and it mandates that mutual agreements and informed consent be obtained before any commercialization of genetic resources is considered.

While the law was passed to great fanfare in the House of Assembly last year, environmentalists have since complained that a huge backlog of applications for approval of research projects is harming the country.

In response, Pinder said amendments to the legislation will differentiate research for commercial purposes from academic or not-for-profit research.

“That legislation on the research is the biological research act was passed last year in 2021 prior to the government changing,” he said.

“It’s evident that that was passed in haste, that was passed without proper consultation, that was passed without having a proper framework within the Department of Environmental Planning to manage the permits given for research and all of that has contributed as we have seen in the press to inefficiencies in supporting research in The Bahamas and issuing the proper permits,” Pinder continued yesterday.

“We have sought technical advice from environmental legal experts on amendments to that piece of legislation. We have received that advice back and the Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General’s office is in meetings and consultations in real-time presently in order to be able to bring amendments to that legislation forward, and make it a little more user friendly with respect to the researchers while still preserving the rights it is intended to preserve for The Bahamas.

Environmentalist Joe Darville said last month that the effort to save mangroves in parts of the country has been hindered by the new law and the slow response from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources to requests for permits.

“The challenge is that when it was put in place there was not an adequate regime to have research only based and then research for commercialization and that’s really the concern,” Pinder said yesterday.

“Any research for commercialization The Bahamas should be the financial beneficiary of that because it is research being conducted in our waters with our natural resources. When it was put in place there wasn’t a proper stream for research only, for educational research such as the island school and PIMS (Perry Institute for Marine Science) and those activities that are outside of the commercial scope. So those are the elements we’ve been working on.

“It’s rather technical but needless to say that we have some recommended amendments to the legislation and we’re working on model agreements, they’re called MATS, Mutual Agreements for Technology, and putting MATS agreements in place so that we can differentiate the research and commercialization.”

Pinder said he hopes within the next 30 or 60 days amendments will be ready for cabinet.

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