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Fishermen again criticise ocean management consultation

Fishermen and other industry representatives stage demonstrations about lack of consultation (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Fishermen's Association of Bermuda has voiced “grave concerns” over the independent panel process for consultation on marine conservation and the blue economy.

Allen Bean, the president, said the organisation had heard from multiple commercial fishermen branding the submission process for the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme's independent panel “confusing and inaccessible”.

FAB has submitted a string of questions to BOPP calling for it to respond by 5pm on Tuesday, given the deadline for submissions is on April 30 — which they have suggested be extended.

The submission form is available for the public to respond to the Final Draft Blue Prosperity Plan. The plan was developed with community input as part of BOPP.

Public submissions will be considered by a review panel independent of BOPP.

The panel will provide Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, a recommendation on whether and how to incorporate received submissions into the final text for the Blue Prosperity Plan.

FAB complained that the submission form was only downloadable via Dropbox, which many of its members do not use.

Speaking on the submission process, Mr Bean said: “If submissions are given without this form they will not be accepted.

“To expect this of fishermen and the general public, many of whom are not accustomed to these types of processes, is to ensure that their valuable contributions never see the light of day.

“Is it your intention that fishers get frustrated and give up? We are only just now hearing about people's frustrations with this process, and the deadline is in nine days.”

FAB has asked for the intended remedy.

Additionally, the organisation claimed the independent panel process was unlikely to be meaningfully reviewed.

FAB questioned whether submitters were able to request face-to-face panel meetings rather than having to make written submissions.

Mr Bean said: “The minister has the unilateral authority to accept or reject elements of the panel’s report, and subsequently revise BOPP’s next draft for the consideration of Cabinet, along with the panel’s report.

“Do the stakeholders’ submissions also go to Cabinet, or do they disappear into thin air?”

The Ministry of Home Affairs has been approached for comment.

Mr Roban said at a press conference this month he had selected an independent panel to review the submissions and create a report to be introduced to the Cabinet for consideration this year.

He said added: “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.”

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Published April 21, 2024 at 10:27 pm (Updated April 21, 2024 at 10:27 pm)

Fishermen again criticise ocean management consultation

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