Habitat loss is a bigger concern than overfishing
No fisherman is against Marine Protection Areas. We could agree on closing more than 20 per cent ... but our concerns have been ignored. Our concerns have been ignored for the three-plus decades by ignorant administrations and a lack of a significant effectual pathway to voice our concerns. This has lead to a neglected industry and rampant mistrust in a failed system.
Concerns such as but not limited to:
• If we are forced into a "sustainable" framework shouldn’t the fish imported only come from other sustainable sources? We are competing against unfair, cheap, imported unsustainable fish. Approximately 1.5 million pounds are imported per year. This isn't addressed in the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Plan or the effect it will have on inflation, hurting all Bermudians/restaurants. These closures will increase our costs, efforts, fuel consumption, and environmental impact. They will make our customers source even worse, cheaper options, moving the issue to someone else's backyard. A pretty ignorant and environmentally unfriendly thing to do.
• Licensing and bag limits for recreational fisherman. The only survey conducted by government suggests recreational fisherman land approximately 650,000lbs of fish a year. This is old data and recent observations by the commercial sector suggest this is even higher. A huge portion of this is black-marketed and impossible to compete against. We want accountability for recreational, data from recreational and the protection of our market.
• Honest reports from DENR on the current health of our stocks. Many are recovering. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight and fisherman need to earn a living as recovery takes place. Recovering is ideal, recovering is the goal. Recovering can be achieved with proper legislation and enforcement.
• Answers on enforcement, timelines, budgeting, penalties, laws (getting convictions on infractions and judicial takes/application of current or new law)
• Addressing first the main threats to the environment outlined in BOPP in the ‘state of Bermuda’s waters’ document …. Cruise ships (Bios ship included), airport dump, run off, moorings, development, etc … None of these real threats were being looked at until 2029.
An environmental impact tax on tourists which is kept out of the common government purse and used for research, restoration and enforcement has been suggested.
What is the point of protection if we don’t address the threats? It takes an ignorant misled person to think that fisherman are the biggest threat to fish ... loss of habitat is the biggest threat. Loss that has been warned about by fisherman and ignored by administrations for decades. Loss caused by threats identified but not addressed. Fisherman are stigmatised, marginalised and criminalised, we have enough crosses to bear. Now we have the burden of blame for every negative environmental impact.
Many people highlight the atrocities committed by fisherman, both commercial and recreational, as justification for these closures. Like all fishing stories these are often exaggerated but, admittedly, they do happen. I don’t condone them but I place these at the feet of administration. Hands have been forced by the neglect in our industry. I compare these atrocities to drunk driving. Sure, we can solve drunk driving by closing the roads but all would agree that this isn’t a feasible solution. Instead we have legislation and enforcement to minimise occurrence.
These and many other concerns voiced by fisherman and conservationists can be addressed and solved through new legislation.
Government is putting the cart before the horse with these closures. Show fisherman the prosperity side first before they make the closures, and make the closures with our input. Don’t cram a map down our throat and tell us we have three months to consult … on the map only. Show us you can develop, enhance, and protect our industry through thought out legislation first. Show us you care about the environment and tackle some of the threats to habitat.
Then we can discuss MPAs.
We got blank faces, and knee-jerk defensiveness, when we asked about these things ... the real things, the hard things ... the when, the why, and the how a broke government plans to finance it.
There is no progressive thought, or plan, or answers … just a “Let’s close 20 per cent and see what happens” … fishermen want to see assurances … they have none.
Government just sees Waitt's money. They are successfully pulling the wool over your eyes with glossy biased propaganda and fear mongering lies in order to gain access to this money by promising to impose Waitt’s global initiative on Bermuda’s unique set of challenges and fisheries.
Unique solutions and legislation are required for our unique challenges.
We are also fighting for heritage, culture, history, socio-economic impact ... the things that lose out to big money, exempt companies, global dependency, unsustainable development and foreign influence. We are fighting against a system that has been set up to negate/silence the opinions of the greatest affected minority. We are fighting for all Bermudians for fair representation in the autocratic totalitarian atmosphere we have on our Bermuda ...
Talk to a fisherman, we may be a rough bunch but we are not unreasonable ... we are the voice of reason, we are the voice of sustainability, we are the voice of knowledge, we are the voice of experience, we are the voice of solution …
Listen to us and you will hear the voice of Bermuda.