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Association releases fisheries management plan

Fishermen joined a protest at Kindley Field in September claiming that their voices were not being heard by the Government (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda has released a draft fisheries management plan as an alternative to the Government’s, calling for data before decisions.

The industry body has worked on the document for a year after David Burt, the Premier, invited it to present an alternative plan to that of the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme.

The FAB’s 12-page plan, which is intended for further consideration by the Government, insists that fishers be able to participate in all levels of decision-making and that scientific data must support any decisions, including closing off areas of Bermuda’s waters to fishing.

The BOPP proposes that at least 20 per cent of Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone become a marine-protected area free of fishing, a stipulation FAB disagrees with based on lack of data and Bermuda being a small-impact fishery.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs thanked the FAB for its “time and commitment” in creating the plan.

He said that Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, will speak on the matter further in the House of Assembly on Friday.

The FAB said in its plan: “Co-operative management of our fisheries resource is an approach based on shared responsibility and decision-making between resource users and the Bermuda Government, acting as a regulatory body.

“Management decisions should be based on locally produced data in the context of sustainable fisheries management science.

“All methods of data collection require and benefit from a co-operative relationship between fishers and regulators/scientists. This is imperative, as fishers’ deep and broad knowledge of target species and the marine environment provides context to a variety of factors that can affect fish movements and catch rates.”

The BOPP lists as one of its core principles the “integrated management of the marine environment” as it will “minimise conflict among stakeholders while recognising each other’s interests and the interests of nature”.

The FAB has staged protests, beginning with one at Kindley Field last September, claiming that the Government is not consulting industry in earnest.

The BOPP also said in its Marine Spatial Plan that “decisions regarding proposed activities and developments in the marine environment will be based on the best available scientific and socioeconomic evidence”.

The FAB said it is not the goal of the draft plan it is presenting to be compliant with the Fisheries Act 1972 as it suggests the implementation of more effective legislation, including a ticketing system to support enforcement against illegal fishing practices.

It said: “Legislative assistance is much needed to move from full prosecution requirements to a ticketing system to deal with infractions of fishing regulations.”

The FAB suggests that the prosecution process at present is “cumbersome”.

One of the goals of the BOPP is to develop a marine resources enforcement strategy that “clearly outlines consequences for infractions and is implemented through strengthened legislation”.

The FAB’s plan offers “constructive criticism” of the systemic interactions between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Commercial Fisheries Council and Marine Resources Board, fishers, and external agencies and stakeholders.

The plan sets out eight goals, beginning with the provision of “access to marine resources for present and future generations”.

It calls for the promotion of Bermudians’ ability to contribute to food security, with commercial fishers providing the means for the general public to access the surrounding marine seafood resources, and that data and evidence be used in adaptive management decision-making.

Other goals include the employment of co-operative management of commercial and recreational fisheries, simplifying management and consideration of the socioeconomic needs and cultural value of the local fishing community.

Finally, it calls for the involvement of the commercial fishing industry and public in the fisheries management process, and increased trust and mutual benefit between fishers, local authorities and the scientific community, other ocean users and the general public by implementing transparent co-management principals.

The FAB said that the Government should maintain a list of common commercial species, how to best conduct stock analysis and measure human impact.

It said fishers should be compensated for research and that data analysis must be peer-reviewed.

Maximum sustainable yield should be determined per species based on sound scientific data, it said.

The FAB said there is at present too much “systemic disincentive” for accurate reporting, and work needs to be done in this area.

It suggested the use of a catch-reporting app, such as Go Outdoors, as well as additional fisheries wardens on Coast Guard boats.

The Government’s Blue Prosperity Plan includes a Draft Blue Economy Strategy and a Draft Marine Spatial Plan, which will be legally binding through the enactment of a Marine Development Act. The BOPP says it will “work together to create jobs, support local business, improve the economy and keep our ocean healthy”.

The BOPP made revisions that were released in November with the creation of “a series of smaller protected areas that include fully protected areas”. It was rejected by the FAB as the MPA still covers 20 per cent of the island’s waters and requires better data before implementation.

Protection designations were changed in key areas to allow for continued shipping activities, as well as necessary maintenance of critical infrastructure, such as channel dredging, moorings and docks.

In areas where fully protected MPAs were adjacent to hotel-owned land, adjustments were made allowing for future permitted tourism development.

One of the BOPP goals is listed as leading a feasibility study on the gradual removal of abandoned and unregistered moorings and the changeover to “eco-friendly” swing moorings.

The FAB has said the existing moorings are affecting inshore fisheries by blocking access to bays and degrading seagrass beds. It calls for all moorings to have proof of salvage insurance for registration renewal.

The government spokesman said: "The Government appreciates the time and commitment demonstrated by the FAB in creating a draft of their fisheries management plan and thanks them for sharing the document for review to consider how it can contribute to the common goals of managing Bermuda's waters."

After the publication of the Blue Prosperity Plan, submissions from the public are to be reviewed by an independent committee.

Recommendations made by that committee, together with the draft plan, will then be submitted to the Cabinet.

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Published February 22, 2024 at 11:10 am (Updated February 22, 2024 at 11:10 am)

Association releases fisheries management plan

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