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Govt amends fishing boundaries

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Government is to allow fishing in an area that was once closed to fishermen during the summer months. The decision to amend the boundaries to the southwestern seasonally protected area was made following “thorough research and in-depth consultation” with stakeholders, Environment Minister Sylvan Richards said. The area had closed each year since the 1970s, from May 1 until August 1, to protect hinds and groupers from excessive fishing when they came together to spawn. Said a Government spokeswoman: “In the past, the boundaries of these seasonally protected areas were defined based on landmarks and compass bearings, but this unnecessarily restricted fishing in areas closer to shore when the important spawning activity was taking place near the edge of the Bermuda platform. “With the advent of GPS navigation, boaters no longer need to use landmarks to know their location when on the water and therefore closed areas can be defined more precisely. “Previously, in 2005, following the discovery of an additional spawning aggregation, the two seasonally protected areas off the eastern end of the Island were consolidated into a single area along the edge of the platform, opening up more than 20 square km closer to shore for fishing. “Following consultations with stakeholders, the southwestern seasonally protected area has been redesigned to exclude the area near the shore that was only closed to fishing because it was within the angle of the compass bearings used to define the protected area. Important spawning aggregations near the platform edge will be protected within 49.6 square km that remain closed to fishing for the reproductive season, while fishing will now be allowed in approximately 60 square km closer to shore.” The spokeswoman continued: “A particularly welcome change is that fishing will no longer be prohibited in the popular area known as Sally Tucker’s. “The exact boundaries of the redesigned southwestern seasonally protected area are shown in the accompanying map, which also includes the GPS co-ordinates for the four corners. The 200m depth contour remains as the seaward boundary and trolling is still permitted along this edge. “In addition, there is an aggregation area for blue-striped grunts, also known as bull grunts, near Fort St Catherine. An area of 1.7 square km, which extends from St Catherine’s Point to the navigation channel on the eastern end around to a marker buoy in line with the Bermuda radio tower on the western end, has been closed to fishing for the months of May and June each year since 2007.” Details of the changes can be found in The Official Gazette today. “The Department of Environmental Protection urges the public to familiarise themselves with these areas and abide by the Fisheries Regulations in order to help conserve our local fish stocks,” the spokeswoman added.