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War of words continues as fishermen say recommendations ignored

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Fishermen have banded together in protest against the Ocean Prosperity Plan (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The head of a fishermen’s organisation highlighted the importance of collaborative working between the Government and the industry as a war of words continued over marine protection proposals.

Allan Bean, the chairman of the Fishermen’s Association Bermuda and the Commercial Fisheries Council, claimed in a video that recommendations sent to ministry headquarters “often lay sitting on the shelf”.

The draft Blue Prosperity Plan recommended protecting 20 per cent of the waters falling within Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles, or 230 miles, offshore.

Mr Bean said that the fishermen’s association decided to no longer be involved in the plan, developed by the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, until “the full process is equitably designed”.

He said “many” of the organisations represented on a BOPP steering committee were not related to the marine environment.

Mr Bean added: “Many of the recommendations which were put forward jointly between the Commercial Fisheries Council and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were sent to the ministry headquarters for approval and have yet to be signed off by the minister.

“As the two industries that are important to food security, the Government needs to respect both the fishermen and the farmers of our island.

“We must work together for the common good of the people.

“Both CFC and the Marine Resources Board have been working together for years in conjunction with the director and senior fisheries officer of DENR.

“However, when we send our recommendations up to the ministry headquarters so that the minister can sign off on these recommendations, they often lay sitting on the shelf, which in turn makes the industry irate because it looks as if things aren’t getting done.”

Juvenile fish in a seagrass bed (File photograph by Kimberly Holzer)

The fishermen’s association last week demanded a halt to the marine protection plans.

It shared a lawyer’s letter sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs on November 10, threatening judicial review proceedings against the BOPP.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said later that the association was free to exercise its right to seek legal support.

He added: “But the reality is that the Government has to govern. We are under an obligation of external requirements which the Government has to follow.”

A Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said last night: “This Government has the utmost respect for the men and women of the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda who work hard every day to provide food to the people of Bermuda.

“We value their contribution and remain committed to working with the association in pursuit of a plan that achieves the social, economic and environmental impacts that matter to the people of Bermuda.”

In a statement issued over the weekend, the fishermen’s association said: “It is important for the viewing public to clearly understand that despite the appearance of a 'to and fro' exchange of words and/or rebuttals, the licensed commercial/charter/bait fishermen of Bermuda stand together as a unified industry who are capable and willing to engage in the critical dialogue that is robust, meaningful and in a place where mutual respect is foremost.

“This dialogue will bring solutions for an issue that we know is one of national significance and can reverse the potential for irreparably damaging a community involving major stakeholders.

“There is far too much at stake from the perspective that not only does fishing provide income for a significant group within the wider Bermudian public, it is a major part of identity and heritage for those working in the industry who play a vital role in achieving local food security on the island.

“The stated mission of FAB at this present juncture is to ensure that equitable solutions are achieved that are mutually beneficial to all and pose no significant threat to all parties' interests, whilst having a 'win-win-win' solution for the environment, fishermen and towards the common goal of long-term sustainability of both.”

The association pointed out that each of the fishermen who attended a meeting to highlight concerns last week represented a business that was subject to regulations and tax requirements, amounting to about 130 entities that were part of the island’s economy.

To read comments from the Government on this topic, made on November 24, 2022, click to see the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published November 29, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated November 29, 2022 at 7:55 am)

War of words continues as fishermen say recommendations ignored

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