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Fishermen boycott conservation talks claiming Government ignores their views

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Fishermen have rebuffed an offer to join talks on a conservation plan being drawn up for Bermuda waters and accused government officials of ignoring their views.

The Fishermen’s Association Bermuda called for a halt to the drafting of the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, which proposes protecting 20 per cent of the seas within the island’s exclusive economic zone.

In a letter to BOPP meeting organisers, shared with The Royal Gazette, the association declined an invitation for a meeting set to go ahead yesterday and said it had “agreed to suspend participation” – also requesting its members not to take part.

The letter adds there had been “attempts to continue to ignore the stated position of the FAB and its members”.

“This has been witnessed by individual members of the Fishermen’s Association Bermuda who have been invited to separate exclusive meetings as recently as this week.

“We also acknowledge the right of any member of FAB to engage with anyone of their choosing but have discouraged this until a change in process has been achieved.”

The group called for “win-win solutions” to be drawn up through a “restructured, equitable consultative process”.

The FAB staunchly opposes the draft BOPP plan and has rejected taking part in consultations set to continue to the end of this year – including “ocean village” groups scheduled to meet three to five times over the 60-day dialogue about the plan.

The association has accused the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of ignoring their input and seeking to “marginalise” more than 150 fishermen and their families.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, has stated that Britain has adopted 30 per cent protection of its waters and ordered its Overseas Territories to come up with a similar arrangement.

Mr Roban has cast the proposed 20 per cent for Bermuda as a compromise that would also allow for greater use of the economic zone, which extends 200 miles offshore.

He has also called for the island’s fishermen to come to the table for talks, even after the association threatened legal action last month at a public meeting.

A range of protected areas proposed for the Bermuda platform (Image from BOPP website)

The proposals map out a series of protected areas, including a string of fully protected zones – some near to shore and others far out on Bermuda’s reef platform.

Pelagic fishing areas, seasonal closure areas and “lobster reservoirs“ are proposed.

Much of the area is deemed multi-use, with foreign commercial fishing vessels and mining prohibited.

The FAB letter said fishermen who had attended previous meetings of the Commercial Fishers Ocean Village Group found them “lacking in meaningful, productive dialogue”.

They called for “halting the current process in order to allow for two-way dialogue specifically between FAB and the Government”, as well as “a restructured meeting or series of meetings” between association members, ministry officials and the Government.

• To read the Fishermen’s Association’s letter withdrawing from Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme talks, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published December 16, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated December 16, 2022 at 8:42 am)

Fishermen boycott conservation talks claiming Government ignores their views

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