Opinion: ‘Why Is It Dragging On For So Long?’

November 6, 2014

[Opinion column written by Jeremy Deacon] This is a real bug bear of mine and I find it difficult to see why it is dragging on for so long.

I know it causes incredible controversy and stirs up emotions in Bermuda but to me [and many others as well] it is a no-brainer.

It is the Blue Halo – an idea stunning in its simplicity that would put Bermuda on the world stage while at the same time enhancing our attraction as a tourist destination.

A trade publication for the travel industry – Travel Weekly – believes that 25 percent of international tourism travel involves eco-tourism. It says spending by eco-tourists is in the region of $470 billion a year.

I’ll come back to the economics of the scheme in another post. I want to look at a political timeline of events first because there are too many loose ends.

On February 27, 2012, then Shadow Environment Minister Michael Fahy was quoted as saying: “The benefits [of the Blue Halo] will be enormous including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven. We support this initiative wholeheartedly.”

On page 11 of the OBA’s 2012 General Election platform [PDF here], the OBA’s platform was to: “Support the Blue Halo initiative”.

On March 21, 2013, the OBA Government announced a scheme to look at the viability of the Island’s ‘blue economy’. Reportedly it was a partnership between the University of California, the Waitt Foundation and Bermuda Institute for Ocean Science.

A Nearshore Marine Spatial Planning Coordinator was to be appointed [I understand that has happened and the person has been in place at the BIOS for some time] to look at options ranging from conservation to commercial and recreational fishing, diving, off-shore energy and boating in waters to a depth of 200m around the Island.

According to reports at the time, a “steering committee made up of representatives of the two departments will lead the public policy process, with representatives from other relevant Government agencies”.

On August 14, 2013, Government said before any decision was taken on the Blue Halo, the people would be consulted.

A Government spokeswoman was quoted as saying: “Prior to making a decision on whether or not such a zone will be created, the Government will undertake a public education and public consultation exercise in order to determine the views of the Bermudian people.

“Upon consideration of those views, the Government will then determine if such a Marine Protected Area will be created, and if so, the location, size, shape and the nature of protections to be associated with it.”

Consultation was duly launched [PDF here] and the deadline for submissions was October 31, 2013 – almost exactly one year ago.

The on June 6, 2014, Premier Michael Dunkley was quoted as saying: “Based on major takeaways from the first phase of public consultation, it is clear that a full economic analysis of the current options be undertaken and it is our intention to ensure that an independent feasibility study to assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within our EEZ be carried out.

“This assessment will project the future economic potential that our EEZ represents and will provide the Government and people of Bermuda with the information required for an advanced level of consultation towards an informed decision on the future of this vast national asset.”

On the same day he was also quoted as saying: “However, given the level of interest and participation in this consultation, the full report on the outcome of the consultation will be made available to the public in the coming weeks.”

So where am I going?

It is just over a year since the public consultation closed and there has been no report. It is about five months since the Premier said the results of the consultation would be released “in the coming weeks’.

It is about 18 months since the University of California, the Waitt Foundation and BIOS partnership was announced and despite there being a steering committee, as far as I can see there have been no public updates.

The OBA has gone from this: “The benefits [of the Blue Halo] will be enormous including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven. We support this initiative wholeheartedly,’ and “Upon consideration of those [consultation] views, the Government will then determine if such a Marine Protected Area will be created, and if so, the location, size, shape and the nature of protections to be associated with it.”

To, “it is our intention to ensure that an independent feasibility study to assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within our EEZ be carried out.” As far as I can see, that was the last mention of the proposed study.

Bermuda is desperate for new revenue, a so-called ‘third pillar’. I understand the need to move carefully, to make sure all options are considered, however there have been mixed messages, a lack of transparency and, it seems to me, a lack of urgency.

- Jeremy Deacon runs public relations firm Deep Blue Communications, as well as writing his blog Bermuda Blue.`

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Category: All, Environment, News, Politics

Comments (58)

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  1. Cow Polly says:

    I think its the prospect of mining minerals from the seabed that is the cause of the pause – this could potentially be our third pillar of revenue and a very lucrative one too. My knowledge is limited so don’t bite my head off if I’ve got it wrong.

    • Deep Sea Diver says:

      Cow Polly – i am sure you are right but i would hate to see our waters ruined and go unprotected

    • Scooby says:

      I believe the ocean depth around Bermuda is about the same as where the Malaysian airline that went down off Australia this year. If they don’t have the technology to find a plane at that depth I believe it is very unlikely that they will be setting up mining operations for a very long time!.

  2. Raymond Ray says:

    I believe Mr Jeremy Deacon it’s another situation where “it be better to measure twice before cutting once”.

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      Raymond, you may be right. But at a time when Bermuda needs new forms of revenue I am just a bit surprised that there has not been more urgency

      • Sickofantz says:

        I probably don’t understand but how will revenue be forthcoming?

        How many eco tourists do we get at the moment? Where are eco tourists currently going?

        I am equally disbelieveing about seabed mining. The sea bed is a huge place why is it that people like cow polly seem to have evidence that there is something down there that can be mined at profit?

        • sswhite says:

          And profit for who? How does this benefit everyone? they cant have it both ways!

  3. hmmm says:

    Did you ask the minister or ministry before sending this opinion to print ?

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      No, hmmm I did not. I don’t really have to ask them as it is an opinion piece not a news story, plus I also know that it could have taken days and days to get a response. One of the reasons behind writing this piece is the hope that there will be a clear response and hopefully action of some sort.

      • Sickofantz says:

        Could you give us a clear response in how Blue Halo will generate revenue?

  4. Tell the Truth says:

    Our? You are not Bermudian.

    • PBanks says:

      Get off it. He’s lived here a long time and is raising his family here. He’s more than entitled to express his opinion or concern at Bermuda issues.

      • Tell the Truth says:

        So what. That doesn”t make him Bermudian so “our” is incorrect. I can’t just go to wherever he’s from and use words like “our” in an online article on a news website that the whole country reads and no one not say anything.

        • el presidenti says:

          Tell the Truth
          there is NO such thing as a Bermudian!

        • BermyL says:

          is he not a member of our community?????

          what’s your problem?

          • Ringmaster says:

            @Tell the truth. Define Bermudian. When you do you will cause most of the PLP and OBA MPs to be “expats”, along with Senators, lawyers, doctors, and in fact all of Bermuda’s residents, including yourself. We all came from somewhere else.

    • brigadooner says:

      and yet he fights for this island a whole lot more than you. I vote we give him your passport.

      • serengeti says:

        I agree. I don’t always agree with JD but he does have his heart in the right place.

      • Tell the Truth says:

        And you know this HOW? Especially considering I am posting under an anonymous name or are you retarded? I vote you shup up and accept facts. Why so sensitive??

        • Creamy says:

          He is perfectly entitled to use the word “our”.

        • brigadooner says:

          Glad you are on board with the democratic process. As such, please count the number of likes to dislikes on your comments. over 70% of the voters do not agree if you. Therefore you may now ‘shup up’

    • hmmm says:

      I’m pretty sure his beautiful wife is Bermudian

    • Evans Bay says:

      Unbelievable! This type of attitude will cause our demise…absolutely unbelievable…It is suffocating that people in Bermuda today harbor this resentment towards somebody not born here… Will you say this if the spouses of the following persons voiced an opinion?

      - Michael Dunkley
      - Dr. Grant Gibbons
      - Michael Fahy
      - Sylvan Richards
      - Ian Kawaley
      - Marc Bean
      - De. Ewart Brown
      - Dame Lois Browne Evans
      - Paula Cox
      - Bob Richards

      the spouses of all these people were not born here, so what?…given your ignorance, you probably don’t even recognize half the names on the list…so do we reject their opinions, charitable contributions etc to our island? They are parents to Bermudian children….until and unless Bermudians get past this…we as a country will continue to regress….get past it…your great great great grandparents weren’t born here either…

      • Evans Bay says:

        We should be listening to revenue advice from wherever…after all it was BERMUDIANS who got us into this mess…and these same BERMUDIANS will continue to suffer under the weight of their ignorance…

        • Raymond Ray says:

          I thank you Evans Bay. Far too many of my fellow Bermudians are so damn “stupid” when it come down to respecting others yet alone, themselves. :-( Sad yes, but true.

          • Next says:

            Well you’re a sell out. Are we surprised by your statements? No we aren’t. You realize you would be in that category as well right? Silly Ray.

            • Raymond Ray says:

              My wife is Asian and this is partially the reason why I’ve express my opinion/s on this topic…I’d interpreted it as an insult also an embarrassment. Furthermore, when I feel to disagree with others I do / will speak out, but of course you and others already know this.

      • Tell the Truth says:

        You mad huh. What resentment? He isnt Bermudian. Fact. You are the one getting all bent out of shape. Why? This has nothig to do with those people listed or their spouses so whats the relevance of you typing that? Cry me a river you condescending little prick. He isnt Bermudian and you will deal with it. How do you know where my great great great grandparents where born? You are wrong but nice try. Another retard. So its fine to criticize and stereotype ALL Bermudians and blame US for everything but stating a simple fact is getting your panties in a bunch? Clown. You sound personally offeneded. Wonder why.

        • Creamy says:

          You’re calling someone else a prick?
          Pot, meet kettle.

        • Ringmaster says:

          You have a real anger management problem. Chill or see a shrink before you do something you regret.

        • 69RSSS says:

          Been here 16 years, married to a 4th generation ‘Bermudian’ for 13 years. You can keep your status and shove it up your a##.
          This attitude just makes me amazed that ANY expat would care what goes on here..
          Not a Blue Halo fan…but my option doesn’t matter anyways..

        • Christopher James says:

          Tell The Truth: Your comments are most unfortunate. You clearly suffer from TCS.

          You should get help.

      • Lucky says:

        God, Bermudians are so ignorant.

        They are so quick to be friendly to tourists- those who are only here for a brief period of time and therefore spend their money accordingly. Yet they say things like this about non-Bermudians- those who live here day after day for year after year buying local, paying rent, and contributing to the economy.

        I just don’t get it. Small island, small minds I guess.

    • Born Bermudian says:

      And he has certainly employed and is mentoring my Bermudian daughter in the field of journalism when a local owned company literally laughed at her. So don’t even begin to go down that road!!!

  5. Trulytruly says:

    Funny I had the same thought yesterday. Jeremy should know how slow the wheels turn by now. All things in time. My opinion is that it has to be a comprise between the two sides. We must allow for the mining if there minerals are discovered at anytime in the future. To prevent that exploration would be very short sighted.

    • Archie says:

      There has not even been any exploration of the deep sea around Bermuda to see if there is anything worth mining. If there is, a big if, it will be years and years before anything actually happens and there is no guarantee it will bring significant revenue to the Island. In the meantime why not make use of the area in another way?

      • Lois Frederick says:

        All I am saying it must be a compromise between the two sides. A significant protected area but not the whole thing.

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      I am all too aware of how slowly the wheels turn, which is why there is sometimes the need to write this sort of column.

      • Terry says:

        Very true Jeremy.
        We have not always agreed but I must give you credit with your former position at the paper that you did respond to queries from me and were honest.
        It’s all about ‘focus’. Many cannot see that but at least your evaluation is progessing.

  6. Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

    Quite simply, Bermuda does not need Blue Halo. We already have pretty much the equivalent in place, we just need to formalise our laws under world standards. And figure out how to police it. (Does debt ring a bell to anyone?)

    That said, as someone who’s looked at eco tourism options in other places in the world, I find myself wondering what we have here to offer the ecotourist. Perhaps someone could name some things for me.

    And if we do want to aim for ecotourism, we’re going to need reasonably priced accommodations. Reasonably priced transport that can be relied upon. Maybe the idea would be all inclusive packages. I don’t know. Personally I always figured the 9 Beaches place would be a great place to go that sort of route.

    Oh, and as a side note, I’m not a supporter of deep sea mining. Quite the opposite. But I also know that it’s a non-issue for at least the next ten years, probably a lot longer. And that it could never bring Bermuda enough money for any sane Government (possibly an oxymoron) to choose.

    • arthur conan doyle says:

      The technology exists and is cheap to operate – they are called drones.

      • Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

        I don’t know how cheap drones are to operate, but there would be the expense of monitoring and attempting to enforce. Plus, how well is CCTV working on land?

        But again, if that’s a viable option, we still don’t need Blue Halo.

        Two identical jackets, one we already own and one which as an expensive label on it. I don’t like the idea of spending money for a label.

        Side note, there’s still been no proof given that anyone has been overfishing anything out there.

        • Terry says:

          When was the last time you saw a Korean/Japanese fishing vessel in St. George.
          Go figure Rhonnie.

          • Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

            Can’t say as I have. Or even heard of one coming in.

            But as a general observation, a fishing boat here and there, while illegal, doesn’t mean overfishing. Now, if you catch sight of one of the factory ships, then it’s something concerning.

      • BritishBermudian says:

        Drones are a wonderful precedent to set in this little slice of heaven called Bermuda..

        Just ask most of the Palestinian population, US citizens having their privacy invaded upon unlawfully and also many many many Afghan civilians who have been killed due to ‘collateral’ in the war.

      • Sickofantz says:

        Would love to see your data on this? Please let us know?

  7. Unbelievable says:

    There are parts of the Blue Halo that are great. They have marketed themselves quite well too. They have a hefty PR budget.

    But Bermudians should know that the Blue Halo should not be the only option.

  8. jt says:

    I am dubious about the potential of any economic impact from Blue Halo.

  9. el presidenti says:

    it’s taking so long because everyone is figuring out how to get a slice of the pie for their greedy pockets!

    havn’t you figured that out by now!

  10. mumbles says:

    What happens to the marlin tournaments in July that bring in millions of dollars? What happens to the local fisherman when he can’t run charters? Blue Halo is a bunch of crock.

    • Robin says:

      If it went ahead, the Blue Halo would not affect, in any way, the first 50 miles of ocean around Bermuda. Do the Marlin fishermen or charter fishermen go further than that? Who is to say, there could not be a compromise?

  11. Hungry says:

    A Drone is a tool like any other. To operate a tool properly, safely and within the confines of law, one must abide by any prescribed rules and established parameters of operation. For example, cars are a tool (a potentially deadly one at that). However, due to the rules and parameters of use of this tool, thousands of vehicles operate safely in Bermuda (if the rules are adhered to). Certainly drones can be used improperly – just like a car or any other tool / piece of equipment. It is all a matter of establishing a drone policy that includes parameters of use (i.e. privacy, flight locations etc.), rules of operation and an appropriate level of violation response (fines etc.).

    Drones are the most cost effective solution to protecting / policing our EEZ. I support the use of drones…the world supports the use of drones (the growth of the use of drones by countries around the globe is massive over the last 5 years). Wake up Bermuda!!!

  12. bluebird says:

    So is this or any Government going to find the $300million short fall for each year in this blue halo.
    So how is that “HUGE” Debt coming along ???
    “NOW” only paying $160Million dollars per year in “INTEREST” that just $14Million a month on average,”UP FROM” $10Million per month.
    We are still borrowing money to pay for the money that we borrowed,hows that working out for you ????
    “SAGE” says something has got to give and the “TUC” says no way hosay.
    We are not there yet but the poop and the fan are getting closer.

  13. Enough says:

    Marlin tournaments held here will be unaffected. Which boats travel more than 50 miles away from the Island to fish for marlin when there is better fishing to be had near the seamounts including Challenger and Argus Banks? All the evidence suggests that stopping fishing in the Blue Halo area will benefit the fishing in the 50 mile radius from the Island. Policing will be the problem.