Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] has been declared a Marine Mammal Sanctuary with particular emphasis on the endangered humpback whale, Minister of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy Marc Bean said this afternoon [Sept 21].
Minister Bean said: “The area of the new Bermuda Marine Mammal Sanctuary will be more than 170,000 square nautical miles, approximately circular in shape with Bermuda at its centre. Although by no means the biggest Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the world, it is a very substantial size and we hope it will be a great contribution to marine mammal conservation in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Minister Bean’s full statement follows below:
Today I am thrilled to be able to stand before you to declare Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
Bermuda’s EEZ is, from 20 September 2012, a sanctuary for all marine mammals, with particular emphasis on the endangered humpback whale. This decision was approved by Cabinet last month.
I must note that this protection for whales and other cetaceans does not affect fishing in Bermuda waters.
This announcement stems from the Bermuda Government’s commitment in 2010 to support the Sargasso Sea Alliance.
And I am proud to say that Bermuda is represented on the Alliance by the Ministry of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy.
As a result of the ongoing diplomatic efforts of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, steps were taken last year to establish a partnership with the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary which is administered by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Stellwagen Bank, famous for its excellent whale watching, is a 638-square-nautical-mile marine sanctuary located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay.
The endangered Atlantic humpback whale population spends the summer months feeding in the northern feeding grounds before making the return voyage to the Caribbean for the winter calving season. Individual humpback whales migrating each spring from the Caribbean to Bermuda and Stellwagen Bank have been routinely identified by the unique patterns of their tail fins, here in Bermuda a well as at Stellwagen Bank.
Over the past six years 673 individual humpback whales have been identified here in Bermuda by the Humpback Whale Project Bermuda, many of them matching to fluke IDs made in the southern calving grounds and the northern feeding grounds. Some of these matches go back 35 years. This is the largest data base of fluke IDs of migrating whales in the middle of the ocean obtained anywhere.
Consequently, on June 30th 2011, at a ceremony held in Bermuda, a letter of intent to build a model for international cooperation was signed with representatives from NOAA as a first step towards establishing this formal partnership agreement with the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary in the interest of extending protection for the endangered humpback whale.
The next steps in this partnership I am also pleased to announce today. The formal declaration of the Bermuda Sanctuary means that Bermuda can now establish a “Sister Sanctuary” agreement with Stellwagen Bank. The Bermuda Government has today signed this collaboration agreement.
The area of the new Bermuda Marine Mammal Sanctuary will be more than 170,000 square nautical miles, approximately circular in shape with Bermuda at its centre. Although by no means the biggest Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the world, it is a very substantial size and we hope it will be a great contribution to marine mammal conservation in the Atlantic Ocean.
Within Bermuda’s EEZ, Humpback Whales are protected by two pieces of Bermuda legislation. The Fisheries Act 1972 protects all species of whales and the Protected Species Act 2003 gives specific protection to whale species that are considered threatened.
To conclude, the establishment of this Marine Mammal Sanctuary and the conclusion of the agreement with Stellwagen Bank will protect, and assist in the global recovery of these, endangered species; promote and encourage research into and monitoring of this iconic species while consequently promoting Bermuda as an important hot spot for whale watching.
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