Blue prosperity planners want input from fishermen
This letter was sent to Gavin Lee of the Bermuda Fishermen’s Association and is reprinted in full:
Dear Mr Lee,
The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme (BOPP) has received your correspondence dated 15 December 2022. Written on behalf of the Fishermen’s Association Bermuda, the letter acknowledges and declines the series of invitations to the members of the FAB to attend the Commercial Fishermen’s Ocean Village meetings. BOPP also acknowledges the FAB’s directive to its members to suspend participation in the consultative process.
Please know that throughout the entire process of developing the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan, BOPP has welcomed the input and involvement of fishermen. We believe fishermen are a crucial stakeholder in this process and it is only by keeping the channels of communication open that we can move forward to find a solution that works for everyone in Bermuda.
It has never been our intention to “ignore the stated position of the FAB and its members” and we will continue to host meetings for all fishermen in the hope of gathering meaningful and constructive input. It is important to recognise that while fishermen are a core stakeholder for Bermuda’s ocean, they are not the only stakeholder, and it is the role of the Government and the goal of the Blue Prosperity Plan to create a long-term solution that benefits all of Bermuda.
Fishermen have been involved in the development of the Blue Prosperity Plan from the beginning of the process. Representatives from the Commercial Fisheries Council (CFC) and Marine Resources Board (MRB) had a seat at the table and a voting position, with greater representation than any other stakeholder group.
Additionally, two sector specific groups were created for fishermen within the Ocean Village, which have met 11 times to get feedback and input during the development of the Blue Prosperity Plan. The purpose of the Ocean Village stakeholder meetings is to collect feedback from fishermen and other ocean users on the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan that has been presented to the public, to provide an opportunity for questions, and to continue to seek information on how the marine environment is being used.
The Draft Blue Prosperity Plan incorporated submissions from the BOPP Ocean Use Survey in 2020 to identify areas for protection that would have the biggest benefit to fishing and other sectors, while disrupting fishermen’s livelihoods as little as possible. During the 2022 consultation period, we have hosted meetings with 41 individual fishermen to gather additional information about fishing locations and further refine the Ocean Use Survey data. The next draft will incorporate this new information, with the same goal of promoting sustainable fisheries and reducing impact to fishermen’s livelihoods.
The Draft Blue Prosperity Plan is a stronger draft due to the input of fishermen. Because of their participation, critical objectives for the Marine Spatial Plan mirror the requests being made by the FAB and in the petition that is being circulated. These include:
• Ensure continued access to the most highly valued fishing grounds on and around the nearshore areas, including the Bermuda Platform and outlying banks.
• To the extent possible, allow for spatial continuity of fishing for pelagic species in depth >50m around the edge of the nearshore areas, including the Bermuda Platform and the outlying banks.
• Develop a licensing structure which will allow for better monitoring of reported catches for all fishers.
• Require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for any development in marine areas.
• Evaluate and increase resources for enforcement.
Develop a marine resources monitoring plan for the Marine Spatial Plan and the associated Marine Protected Areas that increases what is currently being done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and leverages the resources and knowledge of partners, including Bermuda fishers.
BOPP acknowledges the fishermen’s concerns regarding the protection of 20 per cent of Bermuda’s waters. It is important to recognise that marine protection is a strategy put in place to ensure fishing can continue long into the future. Creating areas free from fishing allows fish populations to reproduce and grow and then spill over into unprotected areas. A recent study found that catch for yellowfin tuna increased 54 per cent in areas near a fully protected Marine Protected Area and a global review of marine protection found that fish populations are four to six times higher in protected areas than fished areas.
Beyond benefiting fisheries, marine protection has shown to protect coral cover, improve biodiversity and help the ocean maintain critical ecosystem services that contribute to climate resilience. Many other countries are working towards the goal of protecting 30 per cent of their oceans and the Government of Bermuda has decided on 20 per cent to ensure that fishermen’s needs are prioritised. The Marine Spatial Plan acts as an insurance policy to ensure that fishing and other ocean uses are possible for generations to come.
We recognise that marine protection alone is not a silver bullet for sustainability and that ocean management requires holistic actions to guarantee the viability of marine resources. The success of marine protected areas is dependent on their placement and the implementation of appropriate management, monitoring, enforcement and compliance from ocean users.
There are multiple examples in Bermuda of how appropriate marine management measures helped to restore or protect important marine species in Bermuda. However, more can be done, and Bermuda should use every available tool to ensure the sustainability of its most important resource.
It is up to you, as stewards of the ocean, to participate in the process and work towards the creation of a long-term strategy that will allow fishing to continue in Bermuda for generations to come.
The final Blue Prosperity Plan will be improved with the input of fishermen. Fishermen can help to further expand the objectives listed above, as well as provide additional data to refine the placement of marine protected areas for minimal conflict. This phase of stakeholder consultation that ends on December 31, 2022 will be followed by additional opportunities for input and collaboration. We invite the FAB to reconsider its suspension of engagement and come back to the table.
In the weeks to come, BOPP will be compiling all the feedback that has been received in this stakeholder consultation period. That feedback will be provided to the BOPP Steering Committee to refine the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan. BOPP is also hoping to host a series of workshops with stakeholders on critical issues in order to understand the priorities of marine stakeholders and provide the Steering Committee more guidance on the next steps. We look forward to sharing more details with you soon.
Lastly, there has been a lot of misinformation about the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan that we fear is misleading fishermen and the Bermuda public. To be clear, the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan only proposes to protect 20 per cent of Bermuda’s waters. The remaining 80 per cent would remain open to fishing, and only 10.1 per cent of the Bermuda platform is suggested for full protection. Fishing from the rocks will remain open in the majority of Bermuda's coastline.
In addition, there is no proposal to allow foreign commercial fishing vessels in Bermuda's waters and this is prohibited everywhere within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Also, there is nothing in the plan about selling Bermuda’s waters to foreign investors. Rather, there is a Blue Economy Strategy that aims to attract investors to important ocean industries, including commercial fishing, in Bermuda to support the growth of Bermuda’s blue economy.
BOPP welcomes dialogue with the FAB, every fisherman, and all ocean stakeholders and looks forward to working together to create a solution that will benefit everyone in Bermuda.
Chairman, Steering Committee
Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme