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Ocean Fund seeks to raise $100m for blue economy industries

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New funding: Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Home Affairs, during the press conference yesterday, April 9, 2024. Mr Roban said he had received an updated Bermuda's Blue Prosperity Plan and still sought submissions on it until the deadline, on April 30 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A fund dedicated to blue economy industries is seeking to raise $100 million to support Bermudians in the field, the Minister of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Walter Roban, who is also the Deputy Premier, said during a press conference that there is “new funding” for the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Fund, known as the Ocean Fund.

He also revealed he had received an updated version of the BlueProsperity Plan and that submissions can be made with a deadline of April 30. He said the plan would be put to Cabinet for approval “later this year”.

Mr Roban said: “The plan includes many objectives to support and promote ocean industries, conservation and more, and provides information on new funding that will be available through the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Fund, also known as the Ocean Fund.

“The fund will support the long-term sustainable growth of the blue economy industries and provide opportunities for Bermudians.”

Asked if he knew the value of the fund, he couldn’t say exactly but expected it to start “somewhere close to $100 million”.

He added: “I will give details about what we are doing around the fund when I have that information.

“We continue to discuss with a number of persons the formulation of the fund. I can confidently say that we have had considerable interest in the fund.”

New funding: Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Home Affairs, during the press conference yesterday, April 9, 2024. Mr Roban said he had received an updated Bermuda's Blue Prosperity Plan and still sought submissions on it until the deadline, on April 30 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Last June, Cheryl-Ann Mapp, a blue economy “specialist”, said the fund was seeking to raise $40 million to $50 million up front to fund a pipeline of entrepreneurial experiences to benefit the island, and encouraged investment.

The Minister said discussions with the US-based environmental group Waitt Institute, which has collaborated with Government as part of the overall Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, were ongoing.

The BOPP was originally approved in 2019 in a tripartite agreement between the Government, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Waitt.

During the press conference a video was released with members of the community including commercial and recreational fishermen, and scientists speaking in support of the BOPP plan.

The Blue Prosperity Plan comprises two parts that aim to work in tandem. There is the Marine Spatial Plan and the Blue Economy Strategy and public submissions can be made online until April 30.

Mr Roban said he had selected an independent panel that will review the submissions and create a report that will be introduced to the Cabinet for consideration and approval later this year.

He said: “The panel will first evaluate all the submissions received and then provide, myself, the minister, with a report that will include recommendations.

“Once considered, I will select the ones that will be used to amend the Blue Prosperity Plan if required. The amended plan and its panel report will be introduced to the Cabinet for consideration and approval later this year.

“This plan is created by Bermudians for Bermudians.”

He thanked all in the room and wider community who have thus far contributed to the plan.

Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme information on the Ocean Fund

The Blue Prosperity Plan provides for the establishment of a targeted funding mechanism – the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Fund.

To capitalise the Ocean Fund, a range of sources for investment will be sought out, with a view to deploy finance into the target blue economy sectors (tourism, sustainable fisheries and renewable energy), as well as to support Marine Spatial Plan implementation.

Fund activities will be divided into two “sister” mechanisms:

• An investment programme, providing repayable and blended finance for investment-ready projects and an associated Green Fund.

• An incubator programme, providing grant support, business planning and technical assistance to develop a pipeline of projects that could feed into the investment programme.

Governance will be structured to include relevant stakeholders across sectors and to ensure transparency in decision-making and fund allocation. Key performance indicators will be applied to ensure environmental performance targets are met.

The Government said it was important to note that the Ocean Fund, as a single sustainable finance mechanism, cannot fund the entire blue economy and MSP activities of Bermuda; rather, it is a supporting activity to the overall strategy.

A new Marine Development Act will provide an outline of the legislative framework for the Blue Prosperity Plan.

The MDA is intended to legislate the governance, enforcement and implementation of the MSP. It will also provide guidance on the Ocean Fund.

Mr Roban confirmed that the updated plan continues to look to protect 20 per cent of Bermuda’s waters from fishing and restrictions on other human activity.

The Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda has consistently opposed the 20 per cent designation saying that more data is needed to support implementation.

Representatives of the fishing industry have staged protests against the Government over the issue while making claim that the industry has not been properly consulted.

The whole community was invited to engage in the Ocean User Survey from September 2020 to February 2021 and received over 1,400 responses. It was reopened exclusively to commercial fishermen from November 2022 to March 2023.

Mr Roban said that in the revisited survey, 60 per cent of full-time fishermen had been consulted in a survey along with 29 per cent of part-time commercial fishermen.

Mr Roban said: “I want to emphasise that the Government has recognised the global commitment, which includes the UK, to fully protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

“Over 175 countries have called for 30 cent protection by 2030. According to United Nations data, as of 2022, approximately 100 countries and territories are engaged in developing marine spatial plans.

“With this in mind, Bermuda has set a reasonable expectation of protecting 20 per cent of our 464,000-square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone.”

In February, the FAB released a draft fisheries management plan as an alternative to the Government’s.

The industry body worked on the document for a year after David Burt, the Premier, invited it to present an alternative plan to the BOPP’s.

The FAB’s 12-page plan, which is intended for further consideration by the Government, insists that fishers be able to participate in all levels of decision-making and that scientific data must support any decisions, including closing off areas of Bermuda’s waters to fishing.

Mr Roban said the FAB plan will be reviewed by the panel. “Their contributions are going to have full consideration,” he said.

Previous amendments to proposed marine-protected areas under Bermuda’s Blue Prosperity Plan were revealed in November.

However, the BOPP proposal, which created “a series of smaller protected areas that include fully protected areas”, came as little comfort to the FAB, as the MPA still covers 20 per cent of the island’s waters.

Objections have been raised in the past about the potential for MPAs to hinder progress in potential commercial activities such as deep-sea mining. Mr Roban said such activities were not on the BOPP agenda.

He said: “There has been no deep-sea mining exploration going on in Bermuda’s waters for many years.

“The question of deep-sea mining isn’t an issue for us, there is nobody licensed to do it in Bermuda’s waters, there is no mention of such activities in the plan.

“This is about protection, replenishment and long-term conservation of our waters. Deep sea mining doesn’t factor into that.”

Submissions on the Blue Prosperity Plan can be made via www.forum.gov.bm

Stop BOPP: fishermen opposing the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme have staged multiple protests including one at the Cabinet Office last October (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 09, 2024 at 5:34 pm (Updated April 10, 2024 at 7:42 am)

Ocean Fund seeks to raise $100m for blue economy industries

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