The Mellor Brothers did nothing wrong; they simply did what any other potential Bahamian businessmen would do; they applied through the proper government channels, for the required permits, to fish and export their catches. They were granted all the permissions and now those permit approvals have been recanted, leaving the boys holding a, more than $2 million, bag of headaches-Cartwright, his Ministry of Maritime Affairs and his FNM government screwed up, not the Mellors.
Paul and David Jr, two of a set of triplets, born to David Sr. and Ann Mellor (now deceased), at the Rand Memorial Hospital here in Freeport, decided that they would, after trying a number of other ventures, pursue their fortunes in the very lucrative Bahamian fishing industry. As entitled young Bahamian nationals they realized their good fortune, as such, and wanted to tap into a phase of the industry that heretofore, despite decades of fishing, remains virtually untapped i.e. the harvesting of the migratory Tuna population.
The boys, as they are affectionately referred to, set about preparing themselves, for their future enterprise, by studying the habits and migratory ways of the Tuna. Their preparation necessitated a lot of travelling, taking them to areas where Tuna is harvested in great numbers and prepared for dining room tables around the world. Armed with the knowledge they felt was necessary to make a successful go at the industry, they prepared and submitted their business plan about two years ago, to establish a Pelagic Aquaculture Tuna Fishing Program, to Cabinet Minister Larry Cartwright’s Marine Resources ministry.
It should be noted that every detail of every move these boys made, even prior to preparing their business plan I am assured, was coordinated on the advice of either Minister Cartwright himself or officials at his ministry. No move was made by these boys without either Larry Cartwright and or his ministry officials, giving them the green light.
With all the necessary approvals in hand eventually, but before committing the funds necessary for the purchase of the boat and supplies needed to start up their project, the Mellors contacted Minister Cartwright again from where they were in Italy, just to make sure that there were no last minute hitches/roadblocks which could prevent them from moving ahead with their program. The minister assured them that there were none and that they could proceed to procure their equipment and supplies and proceed home.
They did and vessel arrived from Italy, via a port in Florida, and docked at Bradford’s boat repair facility. Within days of its arrival and the news spread around town, about the fishing method which would be employed by the boys, all hell broke loose. The environmentalists, in and outside the country (a few from the south Florida area) and indeed some fishermen, came out of the woodwork; they all climbed aboard “the beat-up express,” and began pressuring the Government to put a halt to and recant the previous approvals given the boys. After many days of pressure and a town meeting held at Rand Nature Center to discuss the pros and cons of subject matter, the minister succumbed and declared that his government had decided to change the law to regard the purse-seining fishing method of harvesting Tuna, passing through the Bahamian waters on their way to God knows where for which the boys were granted prior approvals by his ministry, illegal. In the boys’ further and subsequent, dialogue (both private and public) with the weak and indecisive minister, following his ministry’s recanting of the approvals, I am told that when asked about what they should do now about the huge upfront investment of $2 million they made contingent on those approvals; the minister’s response, I am told, was quote, “you’ll have to eat it I suppose” unquote. To the question asked about his ministry’s approvals given previously and now his recanting and or reneging of those approvals, the ministers’ response was that (and we all read it in the papers) the government has a right to change it’s mind and change laws, if it wishes, at anytime. I wish to side track a bit here and ask; doesn’t this sound very much like the FNM government’s policy of “stop; review and cancel;” a policy they adopted on coming to office in May 2007 and which the PLP condemned as counterproductive to the enhancement of investor confidence and the orderly development of the country?
I would never condone the arbitrary, indiscriminate slaughtering of our marine resources; and I would never agree to the government giving permission to anyone to extract marine resources from our waters, without first ensuring that all precautions are taken to protect our precious inheritance for generations, yet unborn. However in this particular case with the Mellor Boys, the FNM government committed an array of bumbling and compounded their bumbling with more bumbling. I take issue with the knee-jerk way they (FNM government) handled this whole affair. To say that this matter was executed very crudely would be stating it very nicely. No regard was shown for the shattered dreams and ambitions of these young energetic Bahamian entrepreneurs and worse still for the huge investment they were required to inject, as a prerequisite to them starting up their business. Isn’t the maritime affairs ministry mandated by statue laws to regulate the fishing industry in the Bahamas? Don’t we have well thought out laws, regulations and guidelines in place, in advance, so as to avoid this kind of knee-jerk, “after–the-fact” nonsense from happening, the way it happened here? Doesn’t the government have an obligation that if they offend and cause citizen harm in any way shape or form, that they are obliged to reimburse that citizen for damages caused and expenses incurred as a consequence of those damages? And is there anyone out there who thinks that it’s alright for a government, which brought to bear all these adverse expensive conditions on these citizens, be permitted just to say to them; ‘you’ll have to eat your investment” and walk away scot free?
If I were in the Mellor boys’ situation I would sue the minister, sue his ministry and his government for breach of trust; breach of contract and for anything else I can find, in the books, to sue the bastards for, including every dime of the funds invested to date and more. It cannot be right, or legal, to be granted permission to operate within the existing legal parameters of the laws, governing the fishing industry today, only to have that permission withdrawn tomorrow, simply because of pressure brought to bear on the government from special interest groups.
It cannot be right or legal for that same government to say, in effect, that what you were approved to do, two years ago, was not illegal at the time we approved it, however we have changed our minds and have decided that we will make it illegal with certain amendments we intend to make to the act, sometime in the future(we really don’t know when) and so, in the meantime, we will withdraw your preapproved approvals today; and by the way, in case you are wondering, we do have the right, as the government, to change laws whenever it pleases us and make them retroactive, if we feel like it, without any consequences to us.
This is hogwash, of course, but this is what was done to Paul and David Mellor, after investing an initial $2 million. I condemn this unstable, inept FNM government for the way they handled this whole affair; my guess? This was not Larry Cartwright’s doing; he wouldn’t knowingly hurt anyone and besides he is just too weak a weakling; a scary cat. I know the man well enough and I know his whole family-this was Ingraham’s doing; it has Ingraham’s dictatorial signature all over it and it disgusts me. Sue the bastards’ boys!!!
I’ve read today in the papers where the Mellors have given up their fight and have declared that they will pursue their project no further; that, boys, is what Ingraham was counting on-for the matter to just go away; My advice? Still sue the bastards.
Forrester J Carroll J.P
Freeport, Grand Bahama
20th March 2010.