Premier orders Island EEZ out of Hamilton Declaration
Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will now remain entirely in Bermuda's hands.
The EEZ will be removed from an international declaration that would have placed its stewardship in the hands of a multi-nation Sargasso Sea Commission.
Premier Craig Cannonier made the decision yesterday, when he “made it very clear that the best interests of Bermuda and her people must be paramount at all times, and no risk of impediment to complete control of our EEZ would be accepted.”
The Premier along with Environment Minister Trevor Moniz met with members of the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone Stakeholder's Caucus yesterday, who objected to the Hamilton Declaration provision for the handover of stewardship, and had presented an alternative plan for the 175,000 square miles of open ocean to the Sustainable Development Department in January.
The group said they were spurred to action and comment on several aspects of the Declaration after the text of the Hamilton Declaration was released just last week, with signatories due to execute the document in less than two weeks on March 11.
The Declaration covered: “the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial sea around Bermuda, (excluding the shallow water habitats associated with the Bermuda platform at the base of the Bermuda Rise) ...” and agreed to set up The Sargasso Sea Commission which is to “exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review.”
The objecting Caucus group, after meeting with the Premier, along with Environment Minister Trevor Moniz and senior civil servants, released a press statement which stated: “The Premier made it very clear that the best interests of Bermuda and her people must be paramount at all times, and no risk of impediment to complete control of our EEZ would be accepted.
“The result was Government's commitment to Bermuda's entire EEZ being removed from the Geographical Area of Collaboration as defined in the Hamilton Declaration and likewise making the relevant distinction on the map in Annex 1 (of the Hamilton Declaration document) prior to signing.”
They said their concerns and those of the other stakeholder groups were “well received” by The Premier and Minister Moniz.
“The Caucus wishes to sincerely thank the Premier and Minister Moniz for their time and consideration and looks forward to fostering further synergies with the Environment Ministry with regard to the conservation, management and development of Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone.”
The Caucus members — representing conservationists, marine scientists, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, mining, and telecommunication submarine systems — are Gil Nolan, Richard Winchell, Danny Fox, Alan Card, Nick Hutchings, Jack Ward, Brenton Slade, Russ Frith, James Robinson, Fiona Beck and Michael Batista.
A Government spokesman, answering questions last week about the development of the Declaration document, explained it was drafted by representatives of some 10 governments at a series of meetings over the last two years, and said: “The Governments who helped draft it are expected to attend and sign it together with a number of other interested governments.”
The Caucus members while meeting with the Premier and the Environment Minister expressed their concern about the legal and political consequences of signing the Declaration, “ ... and the potential impact on Bermudians' future opportunities for resource use in our EEZ.
“The Caucus believes that decisions taken by the Bermuda Government that affect our EEZ must consider economic and social impacts as well as environmental and conservation issues,” their press release states.
Marine Resources Board and The Bermuda Alliance for the Sargasso Sea (BASS) representatives were also at the meeting, along with Cabinet Secretary Dr. Derrick Binns and Permanent Secretary Kevin Monkman.
The Bermuda EEZ Stakeholder's Caucus was formed in the fall of 2013 to give their input in respect to the Exclusive Economic Zone. The group formulated an alternative plan for an adaptive marine resource management approach for the EEZ, building on ideas presented at the public forum in October 2013. The plan was submitted to the Sustainable Development Department in January 2014.