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Marine reserve could generate $10m per year for Island — report

A proposed marine reserve could create hundreds of jobs and add millions to the local economy, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trust.

The 2012 report titled “The Economic Impact of the Bermuda Blue Halo: An Exploratory Assessment”, found that the reserve could generate $10 million annually while costing around $1 million per year to maintain.

A section of the report states: “The benefits could result in annual spending for Bermuda that exceeds $10 million, with additional economic expansion due to indirect spending, and generate tax revenues in excess of $8 million, in the process creating as many as 200 jobs.

“The additional costs attributed to the Blue Halo would be comparably small, most likely less than $1 million.

“These costs, which would also provide minimal job creation, are low due to the absence of human activity in the proposed area, and the need to police the area regardless of a special designation, to enforce existing laws.”

The reserve proposal is currently in its public consultation phase, with members of the public asked to submit their views on the proposal to the Sustainable Development Department by the end of the month.

While supporters of the initiative say the “Bermuda Blue Halo” would provide a massive boost for the tourism industry while protecting a significant portion of the North Atlantic, others have said the proposal would eliminate other possible sources or revenue.

Former Premier David Saul said last week that the proposal would be “economic suicide” that would be disastrous for future generations.

Dr Saul, a shareholder in a local subsea mineral prospecting company, said the seabed beneath the Island's Exclusive Economic Zone could contain enough resources to pay off the national debt with money to spare.

Environmentalists, however, have said seabed mining could devastate the Island's coral reefs and beaches with no guarantee of a profit.

The Pew Charitable Trust were contacted by Government two-and-a-half years ago to assist with the proposal. They have since supported the project through their Global Ocean Legacy campaign.

A Pew spokeswoman said: “By declaring a large scale marine reserve in its waters, the Bermudian government is opening up opportunities for economic growth immediately, not in the distant future with potential schemes which are unproven and could also prove dangerous and damaging.

“The global media impact alone of declaring a marine reserve — possibly the largest in the Atlantic — would shine a new spotlight on Bermuda which could be capitalised upon and would certainly translate into increased visitors.”

She said the tourism industry could receive a $50 million boost as a result of the media coverage on the reserve designation, but even a minor increase could have a major impact.

“Even a one percent increase in Bermuda tourism — about 7,000 more visitors per year — following the creation of a marine reserve would deliver an estimated additional $10 million to the Island economy.”

She said that other countries have experienced boosts from similar reserves due to high end visitors and research scientists.

“Following its designation in 2006, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii attracted strong attention from the scientific community and generated tourism revenue through a new visitor centre,” she said. “Australia too has seen the benefits of the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Blue Halo proposal is for an area bigger than the Great Barrier Reef, a huge international selling point.

“The outer waters of Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone are currently not being utilised and if a marine reserve was declared, benefits could be very quick in coming to the island.”

The report is available online at: http://media.wix.com/ugd/6d304e_2a6f67f5ea5dbf8af2ff25ca011aef84.pdf

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Published October 09, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 09, 2013 at 1:01 pm)

Marine reserve could generate $10m per year for Island — report

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