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Investors 'knocking on our door’ with offshore plans – minister

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Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, announces “Blue Prosperity”, flanked by officials involved, at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

No-fishing zones off Bermuda totalling 90,000 sq km have been proposed, along with an investment centre to drive economic investment in local waters.

The fish sanctuaries, with plans to court overseas investors to the island, were unveiled by Water Roban, the home affairs minister yesterday.

In a gathering of officials at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, Mr Roban unveiled the draft Blue Prosperity Plan.

The document recommends protecting 20 per cent of the waters falling within Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles, or 230 miles, offshore.

High-tech devices from aerial drones to underwater submersibles, satellite technology and laser imaging could be used to police the waves far from land, Mr Roban said.

The island is already partnered with the UK in the Blue Shield scheme to tackle illegal fishing – and cooperates with the United States Coast Guard in sea patrols.

But Mr Roban said the partnership with the UK would likely grow as the island developed its offshore protected zones.

The proposal also “outlines a pathway to growing Bermuda's ocean economy”.

Mr Roban said investors had “already been knocking on our door” with plans for offshore.

“Just as a hint, I’m going to speak to potential investors in the upcoming days,” he added.

Both the blue economy plan and the marine spatial plan were drawn up with the help of the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme.

The group was created in 2019 under an agreement between the Government, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Waitt Institute, a non-governmental organisation for ocean conservation.

Mr Roban said the Waitt Institute had linked Bermuda with Finance Earth, a London-based group specialising in investment vehicles involving the natural environment, including renewable energy.

“They have a global reputation,” he added. “They will be helping to develop the investment facility – there will be legislation required because we want to have a strong governance mechanism.”

He said the island’s “strong, sterling reputation with financial services” could position Bermuda as “a hub for this kind of investment globally”.

The proposals will go to the public for consultation under the rubric of “your ocean, your future – you decide”.

The proposed zones of “fully protected, no-take fisheries replenishment”, which can be viewed online via BOPP’s website, show a patchwork of offshore, nearshore and coastal protected areas ranging from fully protected to highly protected and lightly protected.

Examples include the waters near the Paradise Lakes islands in the Great Sound, pitched to be designated “highly protected”, and the Castle Islands including the Nonsuch Island Reserve up to Cooper’s Island, St George’s, to be set aside as “fully protected”.

Other proposed sanctuaries lie far offshore.

Mr Roban said in-person and virtual meetings would be held to give the public “every opportunity to be involved in the process”.

“I cannot overstate how vital this initiative is to the future of our country.

“It is also an excellent example of what can be accomplished when we all work together.”

The proposals follow an assessment of Bermuda’s waters and their economic potential, released last February by BOPP.

Converting part of the island’s exclusive economic zone into marine reserves was proposed ten years ago in the Bermuda Blue Halo under the One Bermuda Alliance administration.

A report from the Pew Charitable Trust suggesting protecting the seas off Bermuda could bring an extra $10 million annually to the island in tourism – but the idea ultimately failed to gain traction.

The island has a string of seasonal and permanently protected areas under longstanding fisheries legislation.

Legislators also agreed in March to strengthen protection of sharks and rays in local waters.

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Published August 26, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated August 26, 2022 at 7:57 am)

Investors 'knocking on our door’ with offshore plans – minister

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