Input sought on marine reserve plan
Government is seeking feedback from the public on plans to establish a marine reserve within Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Island has exclusive rights to the exploration and use of resources within the zone, which consists of 465,000 square miles of ocean that encircles Bermuda and stretches 200 nautical miles out from our shores.
In the House of Assembly on Friday, Environment Minister Sylvan Richards said the reserve zone would be protected from “all extraction from any component of the reserve”.
“The public consultation will assist the Government in determining whether or not there should be a ‘no take’ marine reserve and if so, the size, shape and location of that zone,” Mr Richards said.
The Minister pointed out that different groups had conflicting interests with Bermuda’s waters. For example, environmentalists such as the Pew Environmental Group would call for the largest possible no take zone, while other groups, such as game fishing organisations would want to restrict the size of the zone.
“Closer to home, there are organisations interested in exploring the potential for revenue from seabed mining,” Mr Richards said.
“Our fishermen would want to ensure that they can retain their livelihood.
“Recreational boaters would want to ensure that they are able to enjoy a day on the water and be able to throw a line overboard.
“There are many groups and individuals who have an interest in the decision to be made. This Government wishes to ensure that each of these voices is given an opportunity to be hear before a decision is taken.”
Mr Richards said Government was keen to encourage others to protect the world’s oceans and this effort “would be significantly enhanced by continuing to demonstrate our commitment to protecting our own waters”.
He added the consultation period would begin by the end of next month, run for at least two months and using various methodologies including electronic postings, print and radio adverts, focus groups and public meetings.
“In seeking a balanced public response, it is critical to engage as many residents as possible to provide input to Cabinet on how best to proceed with this national asset, with due consideration for current and future generations,” Mr Richards said.
“In order to ensure that a comprehensive and unbiased set of responses is obtained, it is imperative that we seek information without holding a preconceived position.
“Therefore the Government is not entering into this process with a predetermined outcome in mind.
“I would like to encourage all of Bermuda to participate Ini the public consultation and to voice their opinion on how Bermuda should manage this most important national asset both for today and for future generations. ”