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Govt asks for public input in creating a marine reserve

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Government has revealed potential plans for the creation of a marine reserve in Bermudian waters in an effort to gauge public opinion.

The Ministry of Environment and Planning yesterday released “Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Its Future” — a consulting document detailing the advantages and disadvantages of a large marine reserve in Bermuda's waters.

Three potential reserve options are presented in the document, the largest of which would protect three quarters of the EEZ — 346,340 square kilometres.

A second option would protect half of the EEZ, starting 140 nautical miles from Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, while a third option would begin 178 nautical miles from Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and cover a quarter of the EEZ.

Those who respond can also suggest their own layout of the marine reserve, or say they do not want the marine reserve at all.

Environment Minister Sylvan Richards said: “Many people have an interest and a view and some have chosen to express their views and share them with the public. Some have even suggested a name and size for a protected area within our EEZ.

“Despite the strong interest shown to date by local and international organisations, this consultation process is open to all of Bermuda's residents and the Ministry is particularly interested in hearing from our younger generations as they will likely inherit the responsibility for the decision that will be made.

“This Government values the input of Bermudians and given the significance of this matter, particularly as it relates to our long-term sustainability, our full due diligence is required. Additionally, it is expected that overseas stakeholders will participate and respond to the invitation to share their views. This Government wishes to ensure that all are given an opportunity to be heard before a decision is taken.”

The proposed reserve would be a “no-take” zone, prohibiting fishing and sea bed mining in the protected area.

The full consultation document lists several advantages and disadvantages of the proposed marine reserve.

The document said the reserve could have social, environmental and scientific benefits for Bermuda, while improving Bermuda's international reputation. It states economic modelling has suggested the proposal could increase visitor arrivals by two percent, creating millions of dollars of revenue.

The document states: “As the global ‘blue economy' develops, it may also be possible to generate revenue via carbon offset payments, based on the ability

of plant communities in the marine reserve to absorb carbon dioxide.”

However the reserve would cost around $300,000 to establish, with reserve management costs potentially reaching $175,000 per year. It would also curtail the possibility of seabed mining and limit offshore fishing opportunities.

It also warns “considerable” overseas promotion could be required to reap the full tourism benefits of the reserve saying: “As the aim is to reach a distinct group of travellers, this may be an addition to existing tourism advertising costs.”

A series of television, radio and print advertisements will be made and public meetings will be held to help educate the public about the costs and benefits of such a proposal, he added.

The document can be read in full on our website or www.sdbermuda.bm. Each document contains a response form, which can be sent to the Sustainable Development Department office at 31 Reid Street or sdd@gov.bm. All submissions are due by October 31.

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Published September 04, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 04, 2013 at 12:10 am)

Govt asks for public input in creating a marine reserve

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