Fahy: Licensing Foreign Fishing Vessels

March 13, 2012

[Written by Senator Michael Fahy, Shadow Minister for Environment, Planning & Housing]

Just after the Premier delivered her Budget Speech a few days ago, I publicly questioned a reference she made to licensing foreign vessels to fish in Bermuda’s 200-mile maritime economic zone.

I made two points in relation to this scheme. The first was that it seemed to conflict with the Government’s proposal to create one of the world’s largest maritime reserves in the Exclusive Economic Zone. The Pew Environmental Group, from whom the Government has sought assistance in creating this zone, hopes to turn 94% of the EEZ into a marine reserve. The benefits will be enormous – including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven.

The second was that fishermen in deep water are commonly long liners – that is, they use fishing lines that are sometimes as much as 50 miles long, with thousands of baited hooks attached. This is a method of fishing that has been attacked by environmental groups world-wide for the collateral damage it causes. The United Nations has been asked to ban long line fishing by 705 international scientists from 83 countries and 230 non-governmental organizations from 54 countries, yet the Bermuda Government seems to know better.

I am disappointed that the Government seems not to have taken any steps at all to make their intentions clearer, other than to suggest that unmanned aerial vehicles could keep a watch on things. This is a fundamental choice they’re proposing to make on Bermuda’s behalf. Are we going to be on the side of the angels – those who are trying to preserve the world’s oceans and fish populations? Or are we going to be on the side of the long liners? Surely, this is a choice the public has a right to be given at least some basic information about.

My purpose in this article is to challenge the Government to answer some questions about what they’re doing and how far along they’ve managed to get with their plans.

Have they talked with other countries about whether they’d accept an invitation to fish in our waters? If they have, I think we ought to know when the approaches were made, what countries were involved and what answers they gave.

Has the Government made its intentions known to, or asked the advice of, any of the international marine conservation organizations? Is the Government satisfied that what it intends to do is in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other such conventions? Has the British Government been consulted? If so, what was its reaction?

Has the Government undertaken cost/benefit analyses of licensing foreign fishing vessels to fish in Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone versus the cost-benefit analysis of legislating 94% of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a Marine Protected Area? What were the results of those studies?

Were local fishermen consulted about this licensing scheme? Did they agree with the idea?

The public deserves some answers.

Interestingly the Government’s paper “A Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Bermuda’s Living Marine Resources” indicated that the swordfish would be the primary long liner catch in Bermuda waters. Here are some frightening statistics. In the Atlantic, at the turn of the last Century, the average swordfish landed weighed 300 to 400 pounds. By 1963, the average fish landed weighed 266 pounds, and in 1996, the average fish weighed only 90 pounds. The facts that the size of fish being harvested continues to shrink, and that almost all individuals are juveniles, are classic symptoms of overfishing.

Several species of tuna sharing similar life history traits are showing similar declines. The largest tuna, blue fin, has been fished to near extinction. Recent scientific studies suggest that top predatory fish populations have decreased by 90% in the past 50 years, and long lining has been identified as the primary cause.

It seems to us that rather than licence foreign trawlers, which the Government says could be policed by unmanned aerial vehicles, we could use those very same drones to enforce the proposed Marine Protected Areas to catch vessels fishing illegally. This in itself could generate revenue. We believe that Bermuda’s EEZ should be turned into a MPA. After all it is what the Government wanted in 2010 as well.

- Michael Fahy

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Category: All, Environment, News, Politics

Comments (23)

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  1. OMG says:

    Well said and pointed questions. I doubt you will ever get answers!!

    If we allow foreign vessels to fish out the seas nothing will ever be available for our children.
    Locals will have to spend a boatload of money to be able to do this type of fishing and the ones that will come here have allready outfished where they are – that is why they want to come here.

    This must be stopped!

    • Joe Public says:

      Yes lets join the new club called Fools of Fahy.

  2. True Bermudian says:

    There are numerous ways to make a lot more money other than destroying our environment.

    Thanks for nothing PLP.

    All the hard work to protect our marine environment since Bermuda’s earliest days and now you lot want to throw all that away.

    Just so your pockets can get fat like your bellys.

  3. Yng Black Mind says:

    Again, Mr. Fahy, in his haste, has spoken out about something he does not understand. Instead of speaking to the Minister and the government about their intentions and/or plans regarding foreign fishing vessels, he decided to write this article and blast them for what? THEY HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING YET!!

    Mr. Fahy – if you had spoken with the Minister, you would know the following:

    1. Foreign fishing vessels are, and have been, fishing in those waters for years unchecked and unmanaged.
    2. The protection of the EEZ will continue as this is an environmental goal of Bermuda – not just the government and the current Minister.
    3. All of your questions could have been answered if you humbled yourself and spoke with your counterpart in the Government – plain and simple.

    However, you would rather try to gain political points by providing scare tactics in an election fueled article about a “possible” regulation change with foreign fishing vessel? That seems pretty lazy and cheap to me.

    Sir – as I have mentioned to the OBA in previous posts, please give us real suggestions and recommendations – if they are sound and comprehensive, we will listen – honestly. However, everytime you go “negative” on the current government, you place yourself that much further away from a win at the polls – - we are tired of the fighting and back-biting – - give me hope and you will get my vote. Until then, stop with the same old idiotic party politics – - it is beneath all of you – - maybe?

    Yng Black Mind
    (those who know understand)

    • My two cents says:

      “However, you would rather try to gain political points by providing scare tactics in an election fueled article about a “possible” regulation change with foreign fishing vessel? That seems pretty lazy and cheap to me.”

      You mean scare tactics like “a vote for the UBP is a vote back to the plantation”
      or that the OBA wants to bring in foreigners to steal Bermudian jobs?
      Those type of scare tactics are known as POLITICS and both sides do it so stop whining about stupid stuff and worry about the real issues.

      • Yng Black Mind says:

        @My two cents:

        You are absolutely correct! Well Done! You get the gold star!

        In my statement above, did I mention at all that my comments were reflective of the OBA only? No – I simply spoke to this particular article and comment made by Mr. Fahy. I am in complete agreement that the PLP use the same old “white is bad, black be good” bull crap to sway the masses to vote – - it shouldn’t be the norm for either party.

        My comments were to evoke serious thought about the way forward for the OBA – - read it again and you will see my intention. And trust me, the real issues are my focus – - I just hope I can say the same for the OBA and the PLP – - maybe?

        Yng Black Mind
        (those who know understand)

    • Um Um Like says:

      “…give me hope and you will get my vote.”

      I take it the PLP gave you hope and that’s why you voted for them. Does that mean you won’t be voting in the upcoming election, or that the PLP still gives you hope? If they do, please tell me how the PLP gives you hope!

      Wake up fool.

      • Yng Black Mind says:

        @Um Um:

        As I stated to my friend “My Two cents” above, you didn’t read my comments closely enough. My comments are to spark a sense of urgence within the OBA to change their tatics, as the “same old, same old” will produce the same old results – a PLP win at the polls. But, I will answer your questions:

        1. Did the PLP give me hope that’s why I voted for them? Yes, in 1998, I did believe the PLP gave me hope – their election platform was exciting and new (to me, at least)

        2. Will I be voting in the upcoming election? Yes, however, I am that swing voter that both parties need to win the election, thus my stance on party politics.

        3. Do I believe the PLP still gives me hope? Of course not! Are you a “fool” as you blantly called me in your post? Wake up you old, arrogant pick! (oopps, sorry – I forgot that my parents taught me not to treat people the way they treat me – I should always be better.)

        So, the lesson today is – we, all of us – OBA, PLP, Bermuda – - need to get away from the negatives of political gain and work for the betterment of the country we supposely say we love – - that’s what I made mention in my comments above (I focused on getting the OBA there first, yes – - BUT look in the history of this blog and you will see my comments hit the government too – on a regular basis, I might add).

        Re-read my first post now – - and you might be able to see the genius at work.

        Yng Black Mind
        (those who know understand)

    • Specialgirl4You says:

      Well put Yng Black Mind, I share your strong presentation of facts. Well said.

      • LOL (original TM*) says:

        Please learn from the young blabk mind he does what you usually do not do.


    • Bewildered says:

      If a foreign long liner wants to catch fish here it is highly unlikely they will call up and ask to buy a licence. They will catch fish and leave. Licencing is a waste of money. Encourage a local fisery which can benefit Bermuda via fish processing, and jobs.

      You want a suggestion as to how to raise revenue? A report last week, or maybe yesterday, said there are 100,000 parking tickets unpaid. At $50 each, that’s $5,000,000. Simple to enforce – outstanding tickets no car licence – so why isn’t that collected. Plenty of motorbikes are unlicenced, so collect that missing revenue. If these sorts of issues can’t be enforced on land, there is no hope of enforcing a 200 mile zone offshore.

      • Yng Black Mind says:


        I agree – the “regulation” is a tall task – maybe impossible. But according to Mr. Fahy’s article, it appears it is a “done” deal and governement is putting fishing offciers out there next week. They are looking at trying to get a hold on what is ALREADY happening – nothing more.

        And your suggestion for raising revenue is a great idea – - maybe we should both run as independent candidates and do away with party politics – - what say you?

        Yng Black Mind
        (those who know understand)

        • Bewildered says:

          As I’m sure you know, what’s ironic about your suggestion to run as Independents is that Bermuda was run by Independents prior to the formation of the PLP then UBP. Coming round a full circle! I think it would take many years before the Island is ready for Independents, but the suggestion is good as party politics is holding back progress. A coalition could be a good step forward, and we need less MPs.

      • LOL (original TM*) says:

        Don’t worry they are going after those parking tickets. I know some people have gotten summons in the mail recently. I’m wondering though now that you have to pay $100 a call to the police what impact this will have on crimes or accidence be unreported.


    • Just Curious says:

      THANKS, no more BS, can our politician grow up!

  4. Pastor Syl says:

    Today’s news included photos of humpback whales returning here after some 35 years! Aren’t they the sea-life targetted by Japanese trawlers? Instead of licencing them, we need to ban them and enforce the ban!

    In my next post, I will include information sent from Dominica. Might be interesting to explore what the Caribean is doing about the long-line fishing issue.

  5. 1minute says:

    Who will be out there to police these fisherman while they rape out waters???
    Will we the Bermudian people be allowed to purchase our fish from these foreigners? If so, will we be buying Bermuda or buying foreign?
    I think it is a bad idea.
    Who will be responsible when one of those long lines breaks free, hook into our turtle population, or snags a few longtails or cahows, or ends up on our beaches, and gets one of our childern or tourist?

    Say no to foreign fishing around Bermuda

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Fisheries can’t even police the local fishermen properly.

  6. Lady Scribbler says:

    Simply put, NO NO and Louder NO.

    Anyone who knows anything knows that fishing in this manner causes great damage to marine life amongst other things. NO NO NO!!!!

  7. Gregon Minors says:

    Everything that’s being done in the anywhere else in the world will not work in Bermuda unless it is scaled down.Industrial long lineing usually uses boats that are 75 feet+ ,superspools-50+miles and maybe 1500+ hooks,so you shrink it to fit Bermuda.

    Boats under 65 feet,20-25 miles of mainline,try to keep it under maybe 5-600 hooks,set a minimum size for hooks,set a minimum weight of bait(squid is measured in grams)set a exclusion zone around the banks 20-25 miles?maybe 20 miles from the “edge”

    I’ve always viewed this style of fishing as a wintertime fishery-that immediately removes billfish and assorted seabirds from the bycatch stats.

    Most of the research I’ve seen is on much larger operations that use small baits even smaller hooks and are pretty much around the clock.

    Keep it local unless it’s training

  8. navin johnson says:

    Since just about everything this Government touches turns to garbage why would we not assume this ridiculous proposal would not follow suit…..their management of healthcare has caused healthcare rates to rise faster than costs….their management of the economy has caused business and people to leave and our debt to spiral out of control….they now attempt to sell low cost housing to the public at high prices which will send the housing market even lower this on top of their licensing law which is only being partially amended…..now we have them wishing to control the airspace and the high seas……based on their track record I would expect them to allow the Japanese to conduct whaling operations here and invite Whale Wars to film here as a tourist attraction..The PLP Government should just take a step back and a deep breath before they attempt to implement these half baked plans…..long line fishing shows they are again out of their depth…

  9. Bewildered says:

    Minister Bean has now announced that he won’t be licensing any foreign fishing vessels, but will use the existing law to fine them. It appears he has realized that the 200 mile zone is too large to be monitored. No surprises there.