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Report warns higher sea levels and worsening storms threaten island’s security

Bermuda is becoming more vulnerable to storms and its fish stocks are under threat from climate change and rising sea levels, a report has warned.

The report said that Bermuda’s waters had become “warmer, saltier, more acidic and less oxygenated” because of the climate crisis.

It added that the waters around Bermuda had warmed by nearly 1C over the past decade.

Water temperatures of more than 29C can result in coral bleaching and alteration of the coral’s microbial make-up among other damaging effects.

The report, funded by the US-based Waitt Institute, which has collaborated with the Government on the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, also highlighted large-scale fish “die-offs” over the past 20 years

The report said: “Along with direct impact from warmer waters, sea level rise threatens Bermuda in several ways.

“For example, it inhibits the ability of mangroves to create peat, disrupting their natural ability to trap leaves and other organic material among their roots.

“Ocean acidification and deoxygenation also compromises the ability of coral to grow in pace with predicted sea level rise.

“And longer periods of warmer waters increase the risk to Bermuda from hurricanes.”

The report said: “These combined impacts alter the delicate balance of biodiversity and ecosystem function, leaving Bermuda more vulnerable to storm surge, fish stock collapse, and other consequences of a disrupted marine system.”

The impact of extreme storm events have increased with the rising sea levels, allowing more water to reach higher up the coasts, causing significant erosion and destruction of coastal properties, as well as loss of local vessels.“

The authors added: “Several historic shipwrecks in Bermuda suffered damage because of the increased frequency and intensity of storm events, winter gales, and hurricanes.

“Furthermore, a number of moored boats break loose and run aground annually during storms and are abandoned by their owners to become ecological and safety hazards.”

The report said there was a lack of information on Bermuda’s fish population, the number of recreational fishers and their harvests.

It explained that the information gap limited the understanding of fishing numbers and meant that the burden of regulation fell on the commercial industry.

The report also warned that development of inshore waters, including docks, marinas, dredging, land reclamation and dense concentrations of moorings, was “decimating” mangroves and seagrass beds.

It said: "Mooring systems with chains that drag across the seabed are particularly destructive to seagrass.

“Infrastructure projects in coastal areas such as cruise ship dock creation, dredging of channels and bridge construction, sand extraction, pipeline and cable laying and land reclamation have had major impacts on the areas that contain known and potential underwater cultural heritage sites.”

The report highlighted the massive damage done to tourism by the Covid-19 pandemic, but insisted there was cause for optimism in some areas.

It said: “There is a hopeful outlook for tourism industry recovery in the near future, with a focus on sports and social group travel in the short term, and corporate business travel resuming.”

But it added that there was little chance in the near future of a bounce-back by the cruise ship industry.

The report said: “Many travellers are unsure if cruise travel can be conducted safely and, consequently, the cruise industry is unlikely to see significant growth for the next few years.”

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Published February 04, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated February 04, 2022 at 7:57 am)

Report warns higher sea levels and worsening storms threaten island’s security

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