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Space and sub-sea tech to be used to protect island’s sea zone

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A collection of photos from the Blue Belt programme
Valuable support: Blue Shield representatives Joanna Stockill, Kylie Bamford and Andrew Deary

High-tech surveillance equipment in space and on the seabed is to be deployed in a two-pronged approach to battle criminal activity in the island’s waters, it was announced yesterday.

Satellites and a chain of sub-sea listening devices will be used to police the seas around the island.

Underwater cameras will also be deployed to help to “monitor and protect” ocean creatures, with the information gathered analysed at the University of Western Australia as part of the British Government’s Blue Shield programme for the Overseas Territories.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said Blue Shield would give ”a complete picture of marine activities, which will allow improved management of our waters”.

He was speaking after a British team from the Blue Shield programme visited the island last week to give an update on how the system could be used to protect Bermuda’s massive maritime Exclusive Economic Zone.

Mr Roban said: “Through establishing compliance and enforcement frameworks, Blue Shield will actively monitor activity, assisting us to ensure environmental regulations are met.

“Where necessary, Blue Shield will also help Bermuda to undertake enforcement action against non-compliance.”

He added: “Blue Shield will support Bermuda and other territories through specialist training for on-island staff to build local capacity and be given access to innovative surveillance and enforcement techniques.”

Bermuda was the first UK Overseas Territory to sign up for the British programme.

Mr Roban said that the system was designed to combat activities such as Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, Illegal ballast exchanges and dumping at sea.

Shipping activity, commercial and recreational, will also be monitored.

Technology available includes sub-sea “passive acoustic units”, which can monitor the sound of ships and track them even if the vessels’ global positioning systems are turned off.

Mr Roban said: “Assessments within the EEZ using automatic identification systems and satellite surveillance data to identify shipping trends and risks will help focus enforcement activity in our large 465,000sq km EEZ.”

He added that assistance with policing the Overseas Territories’ seas was available through Britain’s Blue Belt scheme and the Blue Shield programme added an extra layer of protection.

Mr Roban said: “I am very excited about Bermuda's participation in the Blue Shield programme and thank the UK Government for their willingness to share this vital piece of technology that will help support our marine environment's surveillance, protection and management.

“Bermuda will continue to align itself with the highest standards needed for protecting our oceans.”

Mr Roban said the country’s use of the Blue Shield programme was in line with its commitment to the international Sargasso Sea Commission, set up to protect the unique seaweed ocean habitat.

He added: “Our involvement with Blue Shield further strengthens Bermuda’s role as custodian of one of the world’s foremost marine ecosystems.”

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Published February 03, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated February 03, 2022 at 7:57 am)

Space and sub-sea tech to be used to protect island’s sea zone

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