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Study finds low risk of illegal fishing

Cole Simons (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A satellite study of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone has revealed little evidence of illegal fishing, according to the Ministry of the Environment.

A statement by the ministry said that they had recently received a preliminary analysis of three years worth of Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, which showed the probability of illegal fishing was low.

The study was carried out by Satellite Applications Catapult, a UK based company, who reviewed data collected between 2013 and 2016. The data was collected inside Bermuda’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and a surrounding 100 nautical mile buffer zone, which constituted the Bermuda Area of Interest.

The study was funded by Aurum Fund Management Limited — a Bermuda based investment manager.

A ministry spokeswoman said: “Catapult analysed AIS signals broadcast from commercial vessel over 300 gross tons as well as fishing and pleasure vessels. Vessel identification, distribution and speed were examined to determine likely fishing activities in an area.

“Preliminary results show that there are no strong seasonal or spatial trends in AIS activity that could potentially be associated with illegal fishing. A total of 12,700 unique vessels were identified during the three-year review period.”

The spokeswoman noted that any foreign vessel that was convicted of fishing illegally in Bermuda waters faces a fine of up to $1 million and confiscation of both the vessel and the fish.

Cole Simons, Minister of the Environment, described the report as welcome news, thanking Aurum Fund Management for funding the study.

“This analysis gives us a much deeper understanding of what is happening in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Mr Simons said. “The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, guided by the Marine Resources Board, will now review the report and propose recommendations for the appropriate level of monitoring needed to confirm suspicious fishing activity within our EEZ going forward.

“Ultimately, we want to conserve Bermuda’s resources for Bermuda’s sustainable use.”

Meanwhile, Dudley Cottingham, president of Aurum, said that the company had made marine stewardship a high priority and supported several conservation projects since being founded in 1994.

“We believe that Bermuda is uniquely placed to play a leading role in marine conservation,” he said. “Preliminary results show that this is good news for Bermuda and the study provides an important benchmark that can be used when analysing future activity.”