Reuters blog archive

from Environment Forum:

Why is this Great White Shark smiling?

For this Great White Shark, it's even better now in the Bahamas.

The long-running tourist slogan has a new meaning for all 40 of the shark species around the Caribbean island chain after the Bahamian government banned all commercial shark fishing in the approximately  243,244 square miles  (630,000 square kilometers) of the country’s waters.

What's good for sharks is good for the Bahamian economy. These big fish bring in about $78 million each year, or more than $800 million over the last 20 years, according to the Bahamas Diving Association -- the Bahamas is one of the world's premier shark-watching destinations for divers.

This latest conservation move adds to a 20-year-old ban on longline fishing gear in Bahamian waters. The prohibition on longline fishing -- which often nets sharks along with tuna and other big fish that are the fishers' main aim -- is one reason that sharks are thriving around the Bahamas.

That is not the case elsewhere. Worldwide, shark populations have declined by as much as 70 to 80 percent, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts released last month. Some 30 percent of all shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, and there isn't enough data to make an accurate assessment of an additional 47 percent of shark species, the report said. Because these ancient fish -- they were swimming when dinosaurs roamed the earth -- grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over their long lifetimes, they are exceptionally vulnerable to exploitation. Great White sharks have been documented to live 14 years but probably live much longer. Female Great Whites produce two to four live young every year or two, compared with Bluefin Tuna females, who each produce 10 million eggs a year.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Bahamas signs tax accord with Britain in step toward OECD compliance

NASSAU, Oct 29 (Reuters)- The Bahamas on Thursday signed a tax information agreement with Britain, in a move it heralded as another step toward inclusion on an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) "white list" of countries that meet internationally agreed tax standards.

The Bahamas already had a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States and it has been negotiating a number of similar accords with other governments to comply with the OECD standard.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

INTERVIEW-Bahamas not planning to change offshore laws -PM

Residents of Ocean Isle Beach stand at the end of a road to watch the tide come in as Tropical Storm Hanna makes its way toward the coast of the Carolinas in Ocean Isle, North Carolina September 5, 2008. Tropical Storm Hanna was off the east coast of Florida as it moves away from the Bahamas toward the Carolina coast. Hanna was located about 110 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida, and 375 miles south-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES)    By Tom Brown
    MIAMI, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Bahamas will cooperate with specific investigations into suspected tax evaders and fraudsters but will not change its bank secrecy laws to allow
"fishing" in its offshore finance sector by foreign investigators, the country's prime minister said on Tuesday.
    In an interview with Reuters, Hubert Ingraham joined other leaders of Atlantic and Caribbean offshore finance centers in rebuffing criticism leveled by the United States and European governments against offshore jurisdictions seen as tax havens.
    He said the Bahamas, an Atlantic archipelago located east and south of Florida, was aiming to join "certainly no later than December" an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) "white list" of countries that had signed up to internationally agreed tax standards.
    Bahamas is currently on the OECD "gray list" -- which also includes a string of small Caribbean territories -- denoting an absence of full compliance with international tax standards.
    Ingraham, speaking earlier at a conference on the Americas in Miami, said Bahamas' financial services sector had existed for 50 years and bank secrecy was a pillar of it.
    "We don't propose to change our laws," he told Reuters, while adding that his government would seek to comply with what he called the "evolved standards of the world" in the exchange
of tax information and the search for financial wrongdoers.
    "If there are specific things that are needed from a particular person because of a particular set of circumstances, then yes, the Bahamas will cooperate," Ingraham said.
    "But we are not in the business of allowing 'fishing' to take place in the Bahamas," he added, saying the country would not simply throw open its offshore financial sector.
    "Just coming and throwing a big net and saying 'I want to find out this and the other' is ruled out," Ingraham said.
    The prime minister said Bahamas already had a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States and was negotiating a number of similar accords with other governments to comply with the OECD standard.
    Commenting on the campaign against tax havens by the United States and other members of the Group of 20 economic powers, Ingraham suggested that Washington would do well to look in its
own territory for tax evaders and money-launderers.
    "The reality is that the tax havens or the offshore jurisdictions are not the problem, that's not where the money is," he said.
    "The Mexicans have asked the United States about accounts that are in the U.S., the Colombians do the same, and the Argentines and the Brazilians, because the money is right here in America," the Bahamian prime minister added.
    But he said he understood that as national economies shrank in the global downturn, it was a "legitimate undertaking" for governments around the world to try to recover funds they
believed they were owed in unpaid taxes.
    But he added U.S. tax investigators should be looking in the United States, not in offshore jurisdictions like Bahamas.
    "It's more difficult to open a bank account in the Bahamas than it is in America, it's a fact of life," Ingraham said.
    He said he would be sorry to see the departure from Bahamas of the local subsidiary of French bank BNP Paribas <BNPP.PA>,  which announced on Monday that it planned to withdraw from countries, including Bahamas, which did not meet OECD tax information standards and were viewed as tax havens.
    "They did not give us any warning," he said, adding he understood that BNP Paribas was also pulling out of Panama and Curacao for the same reason.
    He did not believe the anti-tax haven campaign would lead to a mass pullout of banks and finance entities from Bahamas.
"We don't expect this is going to start a trend," he said.
 (Reporting by Tom Brown, writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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Tuesday, 29 September 2009 22:38:00RTRS [nN29167937] {C}ENDS

from Changing China:

Will Bahamas top medals table again?

There's an interesting graphic at showing the medals table at the last Olympics in Athens, adjusted for each country's population.

The Bahamas are top with Australia second and Cuba third, according to the site's calculations. Australia were fourth in the unadjusted table, which I guess just highlights their extraordinary performances at the highest level in sport.