Fishermen to write to 'entire House of Assembly’ to get meeting over marine plan
Bermuda’s fishermen are still hopeful of a last chance for talks with the Government to end an impasse over a marine conservation plan that they consider flawed.
Allan Bean, president of the Fishermen’s Association Bermuda and chairman of the Commercial Fisheries Council, said the FAB had yet to receive an invitation to talk from Walter Roban, the home affairs minister.
Mr Bean said the minister had “shown some degree of flexibility” after the association called for top-level talks over the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Plan.
But he said the FAB had “not received any response” to a December 20 letter to Mr Roban calling for the Government to put the brakes on the draft plan and hear fishermen’s grievances over its consultation process.
“We have written to the minister and copied in the Premier and the entire Cabinet requesting to meet them,” Mr Bean said.
“We would like to meet not just the minister but to meet with Cabinet to explain why we have not been participating in consultation and to see if we can reach some agreement to get across this impasse.
“We have no problem sitting at the table and fully engaging in the BOPP plan. But we have to get across this first.”
The deadline for consultation falls at the end of 2022.
Mr Bean, a commercial fisherman, said the group was drafting a further letter to “the entire House of Assembly – all sitting MPs, both parties – to sit down with the powers that be and reach a resolution”.
He said the group hoped to meet in January, before the House reconvenes, to have its side of the matter heard – and present its petition against the BOPP.
Mr Bean added that the document had attracted “thousands” of signatures in support of fishermen.
The Government, along with officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has repeatedly called on the group to join meetings for feedback over the draft proposal.
Fishermen, in turn, have complained that their input has been disregarded.
Mr Bean said on Thursday: “Irrespective of whatever argument we make, when it comes to a vote we are up against a brick wall. Everything is stacked against us.”
He insisted fishermen did not believe the island needed additional marine protected areas – but that “existing regulations need to be enforced”.
Mr Bean also countered fish catch figures shared with The Royal Gazette, which he said incorrectly showed that certain key species had failed to bounce back from overfishing decades ago.
“There are species such as the red grouper, the yellowfin grouper, the juvenile black grouper, that don’t show up because we don’t bring them ashore,” he said.
“These fish are protected. We release them back into the environment – they will not come up on those statistics.”
Mr Roban has defended the plan as a win for the island, since the UK has mandated 30 per cent protection for the waters of its Overseas Territories – while Bermuda has been able to settle for 20 per cent.
Mr Bean said the FAB had reluctantly decided to agree with 20 per cent protection.
“The bottom line is, we’re resigned to the fact that it is 20 per cent,” he said.
“We do not like it. But even if it is the case, it’s where it is in place that’s critical.
“We have said at the steering committee level that it should be placed for the time being on the outer rim of our exclusive economic zone.
“As things develop, we can adjust it accordingly.”