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Feedback from Blue Prosperity Plan consultation released

A satellite image of Bermuda and its reef system (Photograph supplied)

Feedback from hundreds of people has been collated for the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme — including from commercial fishermen, many of whom opposed the conservation proposal for the seas surrounding Bermuda.

The feedback covered the Blue Prosperity Plan, a development proposal for Bermuda’s waters that was put out for consultation last year by Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs.

It was open to comments and public assessment until the end of 2022.

The draft plan comprises a marine spatial plan to protect 20 per cent of the island’s waters across a range of habitats and a blue economy strategy for developing businesses such as marine tourism.

The conservation areas in particular faced scepticism from the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda, which instructed its members last year not to take part in consultation.

But the group met David Burt, Mr Roban and other government members for talks in January aimed at bridging the impasse.

Mr Roban has defended the 20 per cent protection as a modest goal in light of Britain seeking 30 per cent protection, including for the British Overseas Territories.

What they said: a range of comments on BOPP

• Fishermen in their view have been disrespected. They have been asking for assistance in the form of better enforcement, sport fisherman licences and bag limits for quite some time. Their market as a result of population and tourism decline has been almost cut in half, their operating expenses have continued to increase, while they have little flexibility to raise their price.

• The proposed inshore closures focus on two types of marine environments: mangroves and seagrass. These closures are an unfair trammel to commercial fishing and do very little to address the actual issues that are challenging said environments.

• I am concerned when I read early on in the Marine Spatial Plan that “fishers are the core of Bermuda’s society” — why do we grant fishers an automatic first place? To placate them? It seems obsequious to me. And when pelagic fish stocks worldwide are in free fall, why are we considering adding to the drain? Why not copy Palau, which now protects 80 per cent of its waters?

• I’m listening to the experts. We can all agree that the fishermen are against this because they think it will negatively affect them, but it won’t.

• Wind-derived energy should be pursued most aggressively. Recognising that construction and erection of turbines would initially impact the marine environment, these facilities in other locations often become hives of fish populations.

The protected areas would lie within Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles, or 230 miles, offshore.

BOPP officials said that fishermen had provided “detailed input” on the placement of proposed protected areas in 41 one-on-one meetings.

They added that continued feedback would be sought in the next round of engagement.

The plan was threatened with legal action by the FAB in November, with some fishermen accusing the non-profit Waitt Foundation of seeking to gain control over the use of Bermuda waters.

Topics to come in continuing outreach over the BOPP include the proposed marine protected area, enforcement and monitoring, and goals for the blue economy.

Further comment can be lodged via the Bermuda Citizens Forum online.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published March 16, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated March 16, 2023 at 7:33 am)

Feedback from Blue Prosperity Plan consultation released

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