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Ministry moves to clarify marine plan consultation process

Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, and Andrew Pettit, the director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and acting permanent secretary for the ministry. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Ministry of Home Affairs clarified its submission process for consultation on Bermuda’s ocean management plan after a fishermen’s organisation complained it was “confusing and inaccessible”.

Andrew Pettit, the director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Acting Permanent Secretary for the ministry, wrote to Allen Bean, the president of the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda, to say that submissions for the Blue Prosperity Plan could be made to an independent panel in writing and potentially in person rather than solely online.

This was in response to a letter from FAB saying that submitters were required to download Dropbox to make a submission, which some members may not be able to access.

FAB also said members may wish to make their submissions in a face-to-face setting.

Mr Pettit wrote in response: “During their review, if most of the panel believes that to provide a robust recommendation on a submission they must hear directly from the submitter or subject experts, the chair can request the relevant parties attend an in-person meeting to discuss the submission.”

He added it was not necessary to have an account with the file-sharing platform Dropbox to download the submission form and outlined a seven-step process to do so.

How to submit online without a DropBox account

• Visit forum.gov.bm

• Locate and click on the Blue Prosperity Plan consultation

• Click on ‘Read More’ and go to Step 1

• Immediately below step one, click on the Final Draft Blue Prosperity Plan Submission Form link, which will open a new window/webpage

• In this window/webpage, click on ‘Or continue with download only’ located at the bottom

• The document will open in a new window/webpage

• Here, you can download the document to your device by clicking the arrow pointing down.

• Each submission should be sent to the dedicated e-mail msp@gov.bm

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 the Blue Ocean Prosperity Programme.

FAB this week submitted a string of questions to BOPP, including whether stakeholders’ submissions will go to Cabinet, or "disappear into thin air“.

It also called for the April 30 deadline for submissions to be extended.

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

Mr Pettit reiterated comments made by Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, in an earlier press conference, that the panel was independent of BOPP.

Mr Pettit added: “The BOPP team are not involved in reviewing the submissions of the draft Blue Prosperity Plan submitted this month to the Government for consideration.

“A ministerial review panel, independent of BOPP, will be responsible for evaluating all public submissions to the Blue Prosperity Plan’s proposed Marine Protected Area Network and Potential Use Areas.

“The review panel will acknowledge receipt and consider all submissions. Furthermore, all information received by the panel will be made public.”

After the panel’s evaluation, it will provide the minister with a report outlining recommendations.

Mr Pettit said: “Once considered and if required, the minister will select the recommendations to amend the Blue Prosperity Plan further. This amended plan and the submitted panel report will be introduced to the Cabinet for consideration and approval.”

FAB has joined representatives of other industries to protest against government policies they say are negatively affecting their livelihoods.

One bone of contention for the fishermen’s association is BOPP’s plan to dedicate 20 per cent of waters into a marine protected area. The organisation has called for more data to be gathered on fish stocks before a decision is made.

Details of the plan and its remit are available at forum.gov.bm

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Published April 23, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 23, 2024 at 8:18 pm)

Ministry moves to clarify marine plan consultation process

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