EEZ Study Delayed Due To ‘Budget Restraints’

March 16, 2015

The cost of the feasibility study for Bermuda’s Marine EEZ “could not be justified when compared with providing for the immediate social and economic needs of our citizens,” Premier Michael Dunkley said today [Mar 16] in the House of Assembly, adding that due to budget restraints, it is “currently not possible for this specific step to be progressed.”

In 1996 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea granted Bermuda special rights for the resources within our Marine EEZ, which is some 180 thousand square miles in size, and discussion over what to do with the area has been ongoing.

The Premier said that an November, 2014, the Government released the report on ‘The Future of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ]‘, which outlined the major findings and conclusions arising from the public consultation carried out by the Sustainable Development Department  in 2013.

“This consultation resulted in significant participation from the public. Proposals included diverse opportunities on how to best use the EEZ. Some expressed material support for establishing a marine reserve,” continued the Premier.

“Others suggested that Bermuda has the potential to become the ‘Davos of Ocean Health,’ whereby massive international attention could result in increased ocean science research being conducted along with ocean-focused conferences and additional convention business emerging.

“Additionally, the commercial fishing industry endorsed the position that Bermuda’s offshore waters represent the future of local fishing, with the capacity for growth and diversification of the economy.

“Another view presented was that valuable marketable minerals are waiting to be sourced and extracted from our sea bed. Those in favour of this activity posit great potential economic gains in the future.

“At the conclusion of this comprehensive report, under Section 7, Next Steps, the Government undertook to issue “a request-for-quote [RFQ] to determine the cost of an independent feasibility study which will assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within Bermuda’s EEZ.

“This step would ensure “a more rigorous evaluation of the identified options and should provide the Government and people of Bermuda with a reliable economic profile to inform future decision making.”

“I must report that it is currently not possible for this specific step to be progressed, as planned. Honourable Members are aware of our budget restraints and our need to prioritise what are our urgent needs as opposed to what is desirable.

“Unfortunately, for the next fiscal year, the budgeting for the cost of the feasibility study for our EEZ could not be justified when compared with providing for the immediate social and economic needs of our citizens.”

“Be assured that we have only deferred the planning for the study and we will be reviewing the possibility of budgeting for the feasibility study over the fiscal years of 2016/ 2017 and 2017/ 2018.

“We are cognisant of the number of opportunities that Bermuda’s EEZ can yield for its people, both economically and environmentally,” added the Premier.

“Honourable Members can be reassured that, until the study is done and a strategic plan is agreed, the Government will continue to ensure that Bermuda’s maritime environment will continue to be well protected.”

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that in November, 2014, the Government released the report on “The Future of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ]”. This report outlined the major findings and conclusions arising from the public consultation that was carried out by the Sustainable Development Department [SDD] in 2013.

This consultation resulted in significant participation from the public. Proposals included diverse opportunities on how to best use the EEZ. Some expressed material support for establishing a marine reserve. Others suggested that Bermuda has the potential to become the “Davos of Ocean Health,” whereby massive international attention could result in increased ocean science research being conducted along with ocean-focused conferences and additional convention business emerging.

Additionally, the commercial fishing industry endorsed the position that Bermuda’s offshore waters represent the future of local fishing, with the capacity for growth and diversification of the economy. Another view presented was that valuable marketable minerals are waiting to be sourced and extracted from our sea bed. Those in favour of this activity posit great potential economic gains in the future.

Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of this comprehensive report, under Section 7, Next Steps, the Government undertook to issue “a request-for-quote [RFQ] to determine the cost of an independent feasibility study which will assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within Bermuda’s EEZ. This step would ensure “a more rigorous evaluation of the identified options and should provide the Government and people of Bermuda with a reliable economic profile to inform future decision making.”

Mr. Speaker, I must report that it is currently not possible for this specific step to be progressed, as planned. Honourable Members are aware of our budget restraints and our need to prioritise what are our urgent needs as opposed to what is desirable. Unfortunately, for the next fiscal year, the budgeting for the cost of the feasibility study for our EEZ could not be justified when compared with providing for the immediate social and economic needs of our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, be assured that we have only deferred the planning for the study and we will be reviewing the possibility of budgeting for the feasibility study over the fiscal years of 2016/ 2017 and 2017/ 2018. We are cognisant of the number of opportunities that Bermuda’s EEZ can yield for its people, both economically and environmentally.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members can be reassured that, until the study is done and a strategic plan is agreed, the Government will continue to ensure that Bermuda’s maritime environment will continue to be well protected. Please allow me to highlight some of the regulatory measures currently in place.

Bermuda has many regulations aimed at protecting marine species and habitats, including all corals, marine turtles, marine mammals, parrot fish, several species of groupers, etc. The protection of our marine environment dates back to our earliest history. Early settlers were so concerned about the dwindling numbers of turtles in 1620, after only 11 years on the Island, that they banned the harvest of young turtles. This is thought to be the first fisheries legislation passed in the New World. Turtle harvest was eventually banned altogether in 1978. Methods of collection have also been limited including bans or restrictions on dynamite fishing, gill nets, trawls, fish pots, spear guns, and long-lines. Bermuda also has a number of spatial management measures in place and seasonal closures by species and area.

Although these measures were put in place to maintain the health of the inshore environment, there are many regulations in place for activities conducted in the offshore waters as well. Net fishing is prohibited and no license has been granted to a foreign commercial fishing vessel since 1994. It is important to note that significant penalties exist for violations by foreign fishing vessels. Other activities such as recreational fishing by a foreign vessel, local commercial fishing, scientific research, and seabed exploration and mining require a permit or license.

Not only are there local regulations to adhere to, we are also subject to some international regulations in our EEZ. Bermuda is required by international law to cooperate with other countries to manage highly migratory fish species that we catch in our zone, such as tuna and billfish. We do this through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas [ICCAT]. The management of these species in the Atlantic Ocean depends on the cooperation of all of the countries that fish for these species in this area. Bermuda has not used all of its quotas but, even if it did, the impact on the stocks would still be very low as the quotas are a small fraction of the total Atlantic-wide quotas.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature [IUCN] has established criteria for six categories of marine protected areas, areas which are designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives. Because of our existing strict proactive management measures, the IUCN category in which we would fall at present would be category VI.
Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that, in March 2014, Bermuda, once again, demonstrated its leadership role in marine conservation by hosting the Signing Ceremony for the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea. This brought international attention to the global significance of the Sargasso Sea and commendation to Bermuda for initiating and continuing a process in protecting marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. The Hamilton Declaration defined the Sargasso Sea ecosystem to include international waters or areas beyond national jurisdiction, with the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] remaining under the sovereignty and management authority of Bermuda.

The Government of Bermuda, in consultation with the Signatories and Collaborating Partners, established the Sargasso Sea Commission to develop proposals for consideration by the Signatories to maintain the health, productivity and resilience of the Sargasso Sea and to protect its components, including the habitats of threatened and endangered species.

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda has a long and impressive record of marine and terrestrial conservation and has both partnered with and led small island jurisdictions over the decades on a number of important issues. I can assure Honourable Members that our Government remains committed to our EEZ, and, until we have the budget to proceed further, will continue with our aggressive stewardship of the marine environment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

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Comments (12)

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  1. Bermyman says:

    Paying for Civil service sick days are far more important!

  2. Serious Though says:

    Buying time to align investors???? Can the private sector to get involved?.anybody there? i think we just need parliament to set guidelines

  3. Whistling Frog says:

    How is Bermuda to establish a marine reserve when we’re throwing cars, trucks, buses, cycles and everything imaginable into the ocean?
    The United Nations Convention needs to come and see what this country is really doing against the nature of thing…

    • Sara says:

      Bermuda’s lack of concern in her environmental is astonishing. I mean its 22 sq miles you should be able to take better care. It’s quite sad

  4. cole says:

    Several studies have already been done. They demonstrate that the best options are to protect the EEZ from speculative mining and long line fishing. 85% of the public said they wanted to protect the EEZ. There is no need for another study just because David Saul had convinced OBA that he can make money from selling shared in mining speculation.

    • Re Cole says:

      Everyone knows that the several studies of support were funded by the same group who wanted the reserve. The 85% of the public who said they wanted the reserve answered came from a flawed process. Read the report that was published…for once the government is looking to make an informative decision. I’m all for it.

      • cole says:

        The flawed process of asking people? There was nothing wrong with the process, just the answer…

  5. Seriola says:

    0ver 5000 convinced kids wearing Blue Halo T shirts, just got to get more adults on board

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