Canada Signs Declaration To Protect Sargasso

December 5, 2016

Canada is the newest signatory of the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea.

Domenic LeBlanc, Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, signed the Hamilton Declaration at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Mexico on Saturday, with Environment Minister Cole Simons witnessing the signing.

Canada is the eighth signatory of the Hamilton Declaration, which is a political commitment by the signatories to work with the Government of Bermuda and the Sargasso Sea Commission to conserve the Sargasso Sea—the huge, iconic high seas ecosystem in the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.

Minister Cole Simons and Minister Domenic LeBlanc of Canada

Minister N. Cole Simons and Minister Domenic LeBlanc of Canada

Minister Simons, said, “I am immensely pleased that Canada will participate in the stewardship of this unique and vitally important marine environment.

“In addition to Minister Le Blanc, I would like to thank Senator the Hon. Wilfred Moore of Canada for his unflagging support and presence at the signing. We can count on Canada to be an active, reliable and productive partner.

“As Minister responsible for the Canadian Coast Guard, Minister LeBlanc indicated that he would consider whether the Coast Guard could participate in reconnaissance of the Sargasso Sea.”

Minister Le Blanc said, “The Government of Canada remains committed, both domestically and internationally, to conserving and protecting precious marine environments. I am pleased to sign this Declaration, which contributes to ensuring the long-term viability of the globally significant Sargasso Sea ecosystem.

The Hamilton Declaration was originally signed in Bermuda in March 2014 by five governments – The Azores, Bermuda, Monaco, the United Kingdom and the United States. The British Virgin Islands signed in January 2016 followed by The Bahamas in September 2016.

The Sargasso Sea is a unique ecosystem—nearly 5 million square kilometers in area—named for and based on a species of seaweed, Sargassum. The Sargassum mats and windrows act as a major spawning and nursery area for threatened and endangered species, including sea turtles and billfish, as well as for important commercial species of tuna, wahoo and dolphinfish. It is an important part of the migration routes of many species, including a wide variety of sharks and cetaceans.

It is the only place in the world where the European eel and the American eel spawn. They then migrate 3,000 miles back to the continents of Europe and North America.

The Hamilton Declaration mandated the Government of Bermuda to establish the Sargasso Sea Commission to “exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review. “

The Sargasso Sea Commission is appointed by the Government of Bermuda after consultation with the other signatories. It is composed of “distinguished scientists and other persons of international repute committed to the conservation of high seas ecosystems that would serve in their personal capacity.” The Commissioner is Bermudian Dr. Tammy Trott.

The signing was witnessed by Minister of the Environment Simons and Permanent Secretary Marva-Jean O’Brien on behalf of the Government of Bermuda.

“Canada has joined the seven other signatories in a joint commitment to conserve the Sargasso Sea. I am committed to increasing still further the number of signatories to the Hamilton Declaration so the range and impact of this important and ground breaking initiative can increase,” the Minister said.

Dr. David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, added, “The signing of the Hamilton Declaration in 2014 was an historic event in the move toward conservation of the high seas. The impact of the work of the Commission will be greatly enhanced by the active collaboration of our newest regional partner, Canada. “

The third meeting of the signatories and the Sargasso Sea Commission is planned for the spring of 2017.

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