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Government is committed to ensuring people have their say on fishing

A fishing boat crosses St. George's Harbour (File photograph)

Your government believes it is essential to not only lay out the facts after the recent press conference held by the Fishermen's Association of Bermuda. We also want to assure the public that, as your government, we remain committed to listening to, respecting, and working in collaboration with all of Bermuda's stakeholders

Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone is critical to the environmental and economic prosperity of Bermuda. The United Kingdom has set an ambitious policy target to protect 30 per cent of its marine environment by 2030. This is an international obligation made by the UK, and many other countries under existing international conventions. To meet this target, the UK initiated the Blue Belt programme for the UK and its overseas territories in 2018.

Based on its colonial status, Bermuda remains subject to the decisions, directives, and whims of the British Government. If, as a country, we do not assert our rights and our own vision within the confines of global requirements, we will be forced to submit to the decisions of politicians thousands of miles away from our shores.

Our vision is very clear: "Protecting the livelihood of our local fishermen while ensuring a healthy ocean in the future.“

We have engaged with the fishing industry throughout the stakeholder process since the programme began in 2019. The representatives from commercial and recreational fisheries were directly involved in drafting the Blue Prosperity Plan.

While working within the framework imposed on us, we propose that fishermen continue to fish in plus 80 per cent of Bermuda's waters. Some fishing efforts will shift to ensure the industry is sustainable long into the future, but we believe this will preserve their livelihoods and ensure that Bermudian seafood is still available to Bermudians from our fishermen, grocery stores, and restaurants.

In 2019, your government began to develop the Blue Prosperity Programme in partnership with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science and the Waitt Institute. This plan commits to sustainable economic development while enhancing and maximizing our marine resources by:

● Growing Bermuda's ocean-related industries and attracting investment opportunities

● Implementing sustainable ocean development, protection, and management

The public consultation process, which began in early September 2022 and was originally due to conclude at the end of November, was extended to the end of December. It is being conducted by the BOPP Steering Committee, which includes all stakeholders interested in Bermuda's waters. Each entity has one representative, and members of the Commercial Fisheries Council and the Marine Resources Board are full participants on the steering committee.

BOPP has consulted widely and conducted extensive outreach. For the Ocean Use Survey alone, at least six newspaper advertisements and more than 30 radio adverts were released, along with social-media advertising and information dissemination through government channels.

Nearly 1,000 fliers were distributed, and two three-hour pop-up events were held in public areas. Several organisations distributed the survey to their mailing lists, and all Ocean Village stakeholder groups were encouraged to engage.

In-person facilitation, outreach phone calls, and surveys were offered to more than 200 members of our community. Considerable effort was made to collect responses from commercial fishermen as part of the Ocean Use Survey.

Also, over six weeks, at least one outreach attempt was made to each licensed commercial fishing vessel owner.

Responses to the Ocean Use Survey were used to create heat maps to visually represent locations in Bermuda's waters considered most valuable to each sector. Our objective was to ensure continued access to the most highly valued fishing grounds in our waters.

The outreach, as mentioned above, represents only a small portion of the work being done on the Government’s end to ensure that every voice is heard and respected. The feedback shapes the final product; it will only reach its full potential if our fishermen continue participating in the process.

As your government, we often must make tough decisions, and the most challenging part of our job is when we cannot give everyone what they want. That is why we strive so hard to give our people many opportunities and ways to participate in shaping the direction of our country.

The Government knows it will not always get things perfect but our hearts are in the right place and we are working tirelessly in the best interest of our country and our people.

Senator Lindsay Simmons is Junior Minister for Social Development and Seniors and Home Affairs

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Published December 02, 2022 at 8:02 am (Updated December 02, 2022 at 8:02 am)

Government is committed to ensuring people have their say on fishing

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