Column: $200M Fishing Is ‘Pie-In-Sky Dream’

December 11, 2015

vic ball OBA 2015[Opinion column written by Senator Vic Ball]

In his Reply to the 2015 Throne Speech, Marc Bean once again recommended offshore fishing as a way of diversifying Bermuda’s economy.

He said, “We support investment in the Blue Economy, with an initial emphasis on offshore fishing within our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]. Based on the quotas allocated to Bermuda, it is estimated that the market value for this seafood resource is $200 million USD per annum.”

I’m just amazed by that statement. Did he not show this speech to his colleagues before he read it to the House of Assembly?

They would have told him that this pie-in-the-sky dream flies in the face of the facts, as the PLP’s own research showed years ago. It’s also contrary to the PLP’s stated aim of creating one of the world’s largest maritime reserves in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Under the PLP’s guidance, the Marine Resources Section of the Department of Environmental Protection conducted two experiments during the three years from early 2007 to the end of 2009.

In the first part of this experiment, they licensed an established longliner, the Eagle Eye II, to fish in Bermuda’s 200-mile EEZ during February and March of 2007. The vessel carried two Bermudian fishermen on each voyage, so as to introduce Bermudians to longline fishing.

The Eagle Eye II made four longline fishing trips, each lasting between 11 and 14 days. Most of the long-lines were set in areas more than 100 miles towards the south of Bermuda.

A total of 401 marketable fish with an estimated combined weight of 31,765 pounds were captured during the project. However, the costs of transporting the fish to the U.S. market during the 2007 project were very high and deemed “absolutely prohibitive” by the Eagle Eye II’s principals.

In the second part of the experiment, the then-Government licensed a local fishing boat to try long-line fishing between April 2007 and December 2009.

The Bermuda vessel made 32 longline fishing trips and a total of 37 longline sets targeting swordfish. Most fishing was conducted to the north of Bermuda, and trips ventured an average of 50 nautical miles from the island. An average of 63 swordfish weighing a total of 7,281 pounds was caught during each year of operation.

If you were able to sell all of the swordfish in Bermuda at $10 a pound, you’d get $72,810 for it. Even if the longliner were able to bring a ton of other fish to market in Bermuda, once you subtract the running costs of the boat and the wages of the fishermen, we’re talking about a business that is unlikely to make a reasonable return on the investment necessary.

And even if a lot of fishermen were still, for some reason, determined to give longline fishing a try, there’s no way this could become an industry making anywhere near $200 million a year. Finding a way of getting their catch to market in the US for a reasonable price, where fish sells for $4 or less per pound wouldn’t help at all.

While they were in government, the PLP proposed that Bermuda should create one of the world’s largest maritime reserves in the Exclusive Economic Zone. The Pew Environmental Group, which gave them advice, proposed that Bermuda should turn 94% of its EEZ into a marine reserve.

Longline fishing is a method that has been attacked by environmental groups world-wide because of the collateral damage it causes. Longliners use fishing lines that are sometimes as much as 50 miles long, with thousands of baited hooks attached. Studies have shown that millions of fish die or are seriously wounded after being caught on the hooks. Seabirds are often also victims.

Many species found in the longline “bycatch” have been seriously depleted and some pushed towards extinction, according to a report by the American Sea Turtle Restoration Trust.

How on earth does the PLP reconcile this with creating a marine reserve in our EEZ that is designed to be the envy of the environmentally conscious world?

In addition, Bermudians should be asking, how is this idea ever going to become a third pillar of our economy?

- Vic Ball

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Comments (24)

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  1. jeremy deacon says:

    Whilst I agree that $200m is an unrealistic number, at least Mr Bean is looking at an alternative source of revenue and trying to actually mnake something from a huge reource that surrounds us.
    Mr Simons condemns those efforts and does not offer one practical way in which the ‘blue economy’ can be utilised to help add revenue to his Government, which as far as I can see has tunnel vision directed purely to IB and tourism and nothing else.

    • hmmm says:

      The fact that a study was done on this and still the PLP try to pretend it will add 200million to the economy just goes to show how out of touch with reality they are.

      Don’t try to give them credit for being ignorant of reality.

      We could just throw out things like:

      Space launches.

      Underwater hotel

      Gold Mining

      All of which are unrealistic and cost prohibitive…. I deserve no praise. I did nothing, I just said a bunch of things, just like the PLP said a bunch of things. Although at least a study and report hasn’t yet been conducted into my suggestions identifying them an not viable. So my throwing out words are more credible than the PLP.

      • The house ….. speaks.

        • Peter Barrett says:

          3+ years ago a Petition was delivered to the HoA and presented to parliament. Thousands signed it. Thousands don’t want long-line fishing in our waters since it is a win-loose situation. Bermuda fish should be for Bermuda fishermen using current means……not licensed out to foreign long-line fishermen. Eco-tourism is the sustainable win-win solution. Traditional fishing, including fishing tournaments also do very well for Bermuda.

    • Double S says:

      The blue economy is inextricably linked with tourism. That is why there are charter boats, snorkeling trips, scuba diving trips, charter fishing trips and the like.

      One minute, Mr. Deacon, you are a proponent of the Blue Halo concept, while the next you believe in allowing foreign long lining boats to enter our fishing market, to compete with Bermudian fishermen, while at the same time decimating our fish stocks via their 50 mile long baited hook lines.

      Makes no sense as it is a very contradictory opinion.

      Again the ‘idea’ is unrealistic and designed to make people feel like the PLP is thinking outside of the box. Given your first sentence I would say it worked.

      • hmmm says:

        The number of sailing event, with people using the Blue Economy has been amazing…

        There has been another one this week with the moths…and there are more coming. I’m not a sailing fan, but it is incredible the series that now have had and are having dates here.

        Other sports Tourism…we have swim teams, soccer teams coming to train and play local teams. We have people preparing to deal with the effects of time change in order to properly preparation for the Olympics.

        • Double S says:

          Completely forgot about sailing and the ‘blue economy.’

          Another great example of how our most abundant natural resource is being used for economic gain without it having to be destroyed by foreign long liners. And another example of how the ‘blue economy’ is directly linked with tourism.

          Thank you.

      • jeremy deacon says:

        Where did I say I was supportive of long-line fishing? I am a proponent of the Blue Halo project, yes, but that would only ban fishing when you reach 50 miles from bermuda.
        But that is not the point – the point of my comment is that it is easy to destruct but much harder to construct.

    • Systematic says:

      Who is Mr Simons? If you can’t even get the author’s name right, it is very difficult for readers to take any of your other comments seriously.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      It is very hard to give him credit for looking at alternatives, when the alternatives he suggests are already debunked as unrealistic or not viable at the time. There are very few things we can do in our EEZ that aren’t already being done in other EEZ’s that have greater factors inntheir favor for actual viability and ROI. About the only thing we could do with a zone our size is a marine sanctuary, with a granting for sport fishing industry tourism, as even our tourism product makes it difficult to exploit the area in the eco-tourism market.
      Their other fantasy for sea bed mining is another illusion to make it sound like they have an idea. Small studies done years ago do show there is potential for trace minerals of value in the sea bed around us, but no real study has been done, and most institutes that would be interested in such endeavors would look at our geological history and realize that the conditions for such ventures are not optimal for a ROI any current market states. Not when there are still more accessible and lucrative areas available.

    • Bullseye says:

      Mr. Bean also offers no practical way in which the Blue Economy can be utilised – yet he coined it as a term which he flaunts around as if it were a plan. This article seeks only to expose the Pie-in-Sky.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        ““Blue Economy” is marine-based economic development that leads to improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”

        Longline fishing, sea bed mining and even fish farming all have shown negative side effect to the environments where they are carried out. It seems Mr. Bean and the PLP don’t fully understand what Blue Economy means.

  2. Double S says:

    Your problem, Mr. Ball, is that you actually think any actual critical thought was used for these pipe dream of ideas they have issued. Such ‘ideas’ are just further political sloganeering. Nothing more and a lot less.

    I said the same thing once I read this ‘idea.’ Fish prices, like everything else, in Bermuda are considerably higher than any other jurisdiction.

    So much so that the local restaurants use imported fish for their menus as a means to reduce overhead.

    But somehow the PLP believe they can export Bermuda fish and that importers will gladly take on a product that is substantially more expensive than they can procure in either (a) their own jurisdictions or (b) from much cheaper jurisdictions.

    Once you include the basic costs of fishing which include, the boat, the gas, boat parts, maintenance, labor, fishing gear, fishing license, insurance, and then tack on the cost of actually moving the product off the island a bag of filet would end up being around $50 – $100! This fact, as you mentioned, was even highlighted by the PLP’s test run between 2007-9. But somehow 6 years later they believe that it will now be viable and a $200mn a year business!

    Again these ‘ideas’ have no meat on their bones and they are simply sound bites for their base as a means to make it look as if they are thinking outside of the box.

    No different than the PLP claims that somehow we can lure established online gaming to Bermuda shores. What will Bermuda offer to these companies to make them leave their current jurisdictions? Incentives (i.e. tax breaks) will have to be granted. And by doing so it will completely nullify their claim they can balance the budget by the end of the decade via increased taxes from such new firms.

  3. Balanced Facts says:

    The fact of the matter is that Bean puts forward ideas, like fishing, legalising weed and on line gaming without doing thorough research. Same way he continuously comes up with conspiracy theories and scandals with nothing to support them. How can the PLP in light of his deplorable record of leadership allow the Party to be so embarrassed by one man hell bent on being Premier…have the delegates all gone fishing???

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      “hell bent on being Premier…”

      He already thinks he is the Premier, remember when he almost called the government the opposition in the house.

  4. aceboy says:

    Sea Bed mining!!!! That is the answer.

    Doesn’t matter that we have no idea what is down there or how much it will cost….Sea Bed Mining!!!!!

    Oh wait….they aren’t harping on about that any longer…..

    FINTECH!!!! It is save us. We need to do Fintech. What is it? Ummm….it is financial technology. It is the way forward.

    Fintech and long line fishing. Thank goodness for Marc Bean’s brilliance.

    LOL

    What a joke.

  5. Lois Frederick says:

    This is a well reasoned opinion piece. I agree with the logic and facts presented in it.

  6. rhonda says:

    Remember a certain then Minister called the oba’s plan to not borrow a fairy dust plan.

  7. John says:

    How about daytime pocket golf ?

  8. shutthemdown says:

    Even I think fishing is a silly idea.

    Besides who likes how the Japanese long line fishing ships are destroying the natural order of our oceans?

    Mr Bean. … Relax and take you time because the PLP will make the next Government and we need better ideas than fishing.

    • aceboy says:

      What about Fintech? What are your thoughts on that?

      We don’t need *ideas*. We need solid plans. Pie in the sky ideas like this fishing idea (or *Fintech*) are all the PLP have.

  9. blowmyfish says:

    My user name says it all!! :(

  10. Rocky Noggin says:

    The pro-mining nits don’t realize that if mining is feasible it would be on the Bermuda pedestal not offshore. If so, then the mining wouldn’t be cheapest via boat on the edge, but best done from a mine digging into the island, which would make a devastating mess.

  11. Rick says:

    Let’s get real and open one large scale CASINO in an existing property so we can be ready for 2017 . In addition lets grant an additional license that can NOT be utized until a brand new hotel is built with at least 500 rooms. PUT BOTH LICENCES OUT TO BID ASAP.

    The promise of the OBA. To create 2,000 jobs was a farce without a casino let’s hold them accountable.

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