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Bermuda to benefit from UK plan to cut illegal ocean activity

Glowing: a satellite photograph of Bermuda and its protective reefs. (File photograph)

The launch of a new drive to protect the island’s marine environment will be discussed after representatives of the British Government arrive in Bermuda this week.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said Bermuda would be the first of the Overseas Territories to benefit from Britain’s Blue Shield scheme, designed to cut down on illegal fishing and other illicit maritime activities.

Mr Roban said: “The team will be on the island this week and next week to assess the ‘lay of the land’ in Bermuda because we are the first of all the Overseas Territories to receive this benefit.

“Right now, there are a couple of automated drones that are being designed and built for Bermuda by the UK Government and they will be delivered here once they are completed.

“That programme will ultimately be operated by Bermudians, and obviously they will be trained to use these drones and the technology that is afforded us.”

The Blue Shield programme was set up to provide specialised training and tools to the Overseas Territories to clamp down on illegal fishing.

Equipment available through the programme include drones able to monitor vast areas of ocean for human activity and report findings, as well as acoustic detectors that can monitor vessels if their global positioning systems are turned off.

The Blue Shield programme is funded through Britain’s Blue Belt scheme, which was designed to protect more than four million kilometres of ocean around the world and combat the effects of climate change.

Mr Roban said Bermuda’s involvement in Blue Shield was one of several efforts to drum up overseas support for environmental protection.

He said the Government was also finalising an arrangement backed by the UK that will attract financial support for a comprehensive climate study.

Mr Roban said: “When I say comprehensive climate study, I mean it is going to include a study of our shoreline and the impact of erosion, but it is also going to include other aspects of our environment.

“Having a wide, in-depth climate study for Bermuda will allow us to project out for many years the potential impacts through modern technology including satellites that will allow us to understand the impacts on our overall environment for many years to come.

“We are very excited about getting support to do this.”

Mr Roban said the research would be used to develop proposals to tackle the effects of climate change on the island.

He added: “The details are being worked through now but our engagement with Her Majesty’s Government right now says they will support us with that effort, so that funding is likely not going to have to come out of the Bermuda government treasury.

“Her Majesty’s Government is supporting these efforts throughout the Overseas Territories and we are pleased that we are getting the benefit of that.”

Mr Roban said that discussions were also under way with the US Government on potential support for efforts to protect the island’s marine environment.

He said that he had met Gina McCarthy, the chief climate adviser to US president Joe Biden, at the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow last year.

Mr Roban added: “We discussed a number of issues, and one of these was the support that we could get from the US Coast Guard and others in the surveillance of our waters from illegal fishing or other illegal activity and overall marine protection.”

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Published January 29, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated January 29, 2022 at 8:00 am)

Bermuda to benefit from UK plan to cut illegal ocean activity

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