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Greenrock calls for more illegal fishing action

Greenrock has thrown its weight behind a three-year study which monitored the scale of illegal fishing in Bermuda's waters.

Now the environmental group has recommended that further steps should be taken to protect fish stocks.

Results on the study — carried out by Satellite Applications Catapult — were recently revealed by Cole Simons, Minister of the Environment, showing the extent of illegal fishing in Bermuda's Exclusive Ecomical Zone (EEZ).

“Greenrock takes the view that, regardless of whether illegal fishing is rampant or minimal in our EEZ, Bermuda's EEZ should be protected as part of a large-scale, forward-looking marine conservation initiative,” said a statement from the group. “This should take the form of a no-take EEZ marine conservation area in the shape of a doughnut from at least 50 miles from the island to the outer reaches of our EEZ, an area in which all fishing and/or other environmental exploitation is banned.”

Greenrock has likened the killing of Big Game fish in local waters to the slaughter of Big Game animals in Africa.

“The world recoiled in horror as the images of Cecil the lion's lifeless body depicted as a hunting trophy circled the world's media and social networks,” added the statement.

“As global fish stocks near collapse, taking Bluefin tuna, Blue Marlin, shark or other large predators, will be no different from killing Cecil or a white rhino, only much less obvious.

“According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 90 per cent of the world's fish stocks are overfished. Spotter planes, fish aggregating devices, factory ships, side and thermal-scanning undersea imaging and other developments in the commercial fishing realm are helping industrial-scale fishing operations to decimate fish stocks worldwide.”

The EEZ report indicated heightened fishing activity in and around Bermuda's EEZ between November and May.

“As noted, this does not include vessels which are not transmitting an AIS signal — and if international trends are anything to go by, most illegal fishing takes place by vessels that are not transmitting,” said the statement.

“The Bermuda Government has now received, (i) the results from the marine conservation public consultation in 2013 (in which a resounding 86 per cent of respondents were in favour of a ‘no-take' zone in the outer part of our EEZ); (ii) indications of support from an array of marine biologists, scientists and philanthropists, for example, the renowned Dr Sylvia Earle and Philippe Cousteau; and (iii) findings from the Catapult study.

“Now it is time for action.

“Greenrock looks forward to receiving more information on the new Marine Resources Enforcement Strategy mentioned by Minister Simons and hopes that it will focus on an end goal of sustainable use in the near term — something Greenrock routinely champions.

The statement continues: “There are now a multitude of conservation examples which can direct us to sustainable use. There is, for example, the Blue Halo Barbuda initiative which has been so successful that Montserrat and Curacao have now followed suit.

“During his tenure as US president, Barack Obama increased a national marine monument in Hawaii to protect/encompass more than half a million square miles — quadrupling the initial size.

“A third example occurred in late 2016, when delegates from 24 countries and the European Union agreed that the Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world's largest marine protected area. According to the BBC's report, approximately 1.57m sq km (600,000 sq miles) of the Southern Ocean will be spared from commercial fishing for 35 years. Environmentalists have welcomed this move to protect what's said to be the Earth's most pristine marine ecosystem.

“Detractors of greater marine conservation around Bermuda cite difficulties in enforcement as one reason not to move ahead with a no-take zone in our EEZ. This cannot be an excuse to avoid our responsible stewardship of our precious resources. Arguably the above difficulty can be addressed quite simply.

“Companies like Catapult offer real-time alerts for illegal fishing. While it may be hard for Bermuda to respond to each instance of potential illegal fishing, with help from the US Coast Guard, US Navy, Royal Navy, and non-profits like Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace, local air traffic and by harnessing drone technology, Bermuda can, over time, develop a robust enforcement regime.

“Importantly, it is not crucial that the enforcement regime be in place prior to the designation of the marine conservation area. It can develop over time, becoming more effective each year.

“The development of a new Marine Resources Enforcement Strategy must be combined with a Government decision to create a marine conservation area encompassing a large part of our EEZ.

“Now more than ever, we must follow the path or our forbearers, astute conservationists who began/initiated protection of sea turtles in 1620. The preservation of a vital and beautiful part of our natural environment depends on it.”

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Published March 14, 2017 at 4:49 pm (Updated March 14, 2017 at 4:49 pm)

Greenrock calls for more illegal fishing action

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