Opinion: Lack Of Urgency On Ocean’s Potential

November 20, 2014

deacon[Opinion column written by Jeremy Deacon]

Given the crying need to add a third pillar to our economy – and not just prop up the existing two – there appears to be a staggering lack of urgency about exploring what the ocean could offer.

The recent Sustainable Development Department report [which I found to be bland] on the future of the Island’s EEZ made reference to the “issuance of a request for quote to determine the cost of an independent feasibility study to assess forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within Bermuda’s EEZ”. [Try saying that in one breath.]

But there was no urgency about it, no timeline, and no sense that this is an issue worth pursuing quickly because it could generate significant revenue – whatever the final use may be.

Both political parties have talked about the ocean’s potential, but as yet, I cannot think of any material thing that has come from the talking. Please tell if I am wrong.

I understand that Rome was not built in a day and that there are differing and opposing views on what would benefit Bermuda most, but, well, what do I know?

On another note, the report does acknowledge that much of the evidence put forward was anecdotal. It says “at this stage the supporting data is too weak to provide the basis for sound long-term decision making”.

However, what was not weak were the results of the various polls that were conducted on the issue.

An on-line survey of 1,461 people showed that 52.9 percent of respondents were in favour of designating three-quarters of the EEZ as a marine reserve, 4.9 per cent were in favour of designating half the EEZ and 27.6 percent favoured designating a quarter of the EEZ.

A staggering 85.4 percent favoured some sort of protection.

The results of a household mail out showed that 52.7 percent favoured designating three-quarters of the EEZ, 22 percent wanted half the EEZ protected and 4.5 percent voted for one quarter.

Altogether 79.2 percent of those question wanted some sort of protection.

Of the public submissions, 62.1 wanted protection for three-quarters of the EEZ, 15.4 percent for one quarter and 7.9 percent for half of the EEZ

Overall 85.4 wanted to see some sort of protection. Reasons for support were that it would be good for fish stocks and fishing that it would help tourism and the economy.

Given the results of the three polls, can it be said that Government is ignoring the will of the vast majority?


During a debate on the Throne Speech, Wayne Furbert, the Shadow Minister of Economic Development, was quoted as saying that “research on sea mining had been carried out, including in a UN report, and claimed the OBA needed more vision”.

I just wonder how much Mr Furbert actually knows about seabed mining and whether that is the vision [see stats above] that the majority of the people of Bermuda want.

- Jeremy Deacon is a former journalist who now runs his own PR company Deep Blue Communications

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Category: All, Environment, News, Politics

Comments (20)

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  1. Bermuda Jake says:

    I thought at first you were advocating for more of a marine based economy as a third pillar. Your piece shifts to 85% being in favor of some protection.

    I support your contention that the marine space is better left in a protected state, but it is a confusing wrap around to place that argument inside a criticism for lack of movement on marine economic development.

    I think we have more than enough examples of spoiling the land to be venturing out to “develop” the sea…

    • Black Soil says:

      Our oceans need to be both protected and exploited. The best option is eco-tourism….or if you like, simply put tourism. We need to promote our oceans’ beauty (this is where the BTA kicks in) and we need to be having hundreds of googly eyed tourists diving in and around our oceans. Sea bed mining will produce almost NO jobs for Bermudians…in fact it will be a sell-out to foreign interests. And when the mining is done, then what?? It is not sustainable. Sea bed mining is a HUGE slippery slope…once it starts good luck holding it back once the revenue concessions start flowing in. And the dredge fall-out is HUGE.

      • Raymond Ray says:

        As most of us would say:”Ain’t dat so tru”. Black Soil has hit the proverbial nail upon its head…Sea bed mining is a HUGH slippery slope etc.

  2. San George says:

    They are waiting for the Canadians to make an offer. Still waiting for the private Canadian jet to show-up and wisk them off for a secret 30 year deal and the bank transfer. Bermuda really is another world Deacon.

  3. Onion says:

    Most people (myself included) were unaware at the time of the survey that there are already substantial protections in place for our offshore waters and we already have a marine reserve in everything except name.

    Fisheries Act 1972:
    Foreign fishing vessels
    Subject to this section, where any person on board a foreign vessel takes any
    fish within the exclusive economic zone then that person and also the master or other
    person in charge of the vessel each commit an offence:
    Punishment on summary conviction: subject to section 14, a fine of $1,000,000 and the
    vessel used in such taking and the fish on board shall be liable to forfeiture.

    Fisheries inspector may stop and search vessel; arrest
    A fisheries inspector may at any time stop, go on board and search any vessel
    within the exclusive economic zone, and if he has reason to suspect that any person on
    board such vessel has contravened any of the provisions of this Act or any regulations made
    thereunder he may without summons, warrant, or other process seize the vessel and detain
    it and arrest any person found on board.
    A fisheries inspector may at any time without summons, warrant or other
    process seize and detain any vessel or thing which is liable to forfeiture under this Act or
    which he has reasonable grounds to believe is so liable.
    Any fisheries inspector and any person whom he may call to his assistance may
    arrest and detain without warrant any person whom such inspector has reason to suspect
    has committed or permitted any offence against this Act or any regulations made

  4. EEZ Already Protected says:

    Mr. Deacon, in terms of fishing by foreigners, our EEZ is already protected: see section 7 of the Fisheries Act 1972 (set out below). People seem to be unaware of this and/or it has been conveniently ignored. The real issue is the availability of resources to enforce the existing legislation (and that’s assuming there is material IUU fishing actually happening inside our EEZ, which has yet to be proven). Unless we have parties (governments, IGOs, NGOs, etc) obligated to provide resources to enable effective enforcement, no amount of further “Blue Halo” legislation will change anything.

    Foreign fishing vessels
    7. (1) Subject to this section, where any person on board a foreign vessel takes any fish within the exclusive economic zone then that person and also the master or other person in charge of the vessel each commit an offence:

    Punishment on summary conviction: subject to section 14, a fine of $1,000,000 and the vessel used in such taking and the fish on board shall be liable to forfeiture.

    (2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, a taking by a person on board a foreign vessel shall be deemed not to be in contravention of subsection (1) if such taking was made—

    (a) for commercial or scientific research purposes under the authority of, and in accordance with the terms and conditions of, a licence in that behalf granted to the person operating the vessel; or

    (b) for sporting purposes, after the vessel has first made entry in respect of the voyage on which it is engaged, at a port of entry in Bermuda and has obtained a fishing licence for that purpose.

    (2A) The log book or other documents of a vessel used in contravening subsection(1) may be seized and used as evidence.

    (3) In this section “foreign” in relation to a fishing vessel means not bona fide owned by a person who possesses Bermudian status within the meaning of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 [title 5 item 16].

    • Raymond Ray says:

      Up to this very day is a problem enforcing…The protection of our waters and the fish that are taken from them said waters has been and will continue being a thorn in our side.

  5. UpsetwithVerdict says:

    Deacon, can you offer seminars to help us better understand this or something of that sort? I believe we should look to the water for options as well, but I am not clear on it. I believe we need more clarity on this subject and if someone like you can help with that would be good. Thanks for your article.

  6. Unbelievable says:

    Yes the EEZ is already protected and been since the mid-90s.

    I think BDA just needs to define further what the protections are.

  7. Rhonnie aka BlueFamiliar says:

    There’s no doubt that Bermuda needs a third pillar of income. And the sooner we can find one, the better. The problem is that there’s only so much time and so much money to be focused on our ailing economy.

    Right now, I beleive the Government is doing the right thing in devoting all of their attention to shore up, and rebuild, our existing pillars. They’re still there, they still bring income, with some work they can hold us steady while other avenues are explored. But first we need to stabilise and build them a bit or, basically, we’re in deeper trouble than we are now.

    Once we’re no longer sinking, then time and money can be devoted to other options, which may or may not, be of use to us.

    Until then, I’ve been wondering why the proponents of the blue economy aren’t doing more than complaining about the lack of Government urgency on the issue. Come up with ideas to work with what we already have… which, frankly, is a lot. There’s a lot of help out there for small entrepreneurs right now. Create and run a business that could be part of a blue ecomony and show just how it could, with similar enterprises, change the direction of the economy.

    Seriously, less complaining, more acting is usually a more successful route.

  8. Onion says:

    In terms of the economic value of a marine reserve, PEW have put up a paper that does an economic estimate of the value or marine reserves called “A General Business Model for Marine Reserves”.

    If you account for the current protections and then plug in appropriate numbers for their proposed Blue Halo the economic value of it is virtually zero. They don’t seem to think anyone would actually do the math.

    PEW also produced a document “The Economic Impact of the Bermuda Blue Halo” which listed costs in the millions of dollars per year if one properly adjusts their numbers to include all costs (insurance, office space, salaries, capital, interest, etc.)

    So the end result is that there is no marginal benefit of a no-take reserve vs. what we have today yet millions in annual expenses.

  9. Terry says:

    Thanks Jeremy.
    Some good and relative comments to date.

    Only problem is it is not enforced.

    Fisheries Officers do not patrol ‘out there’.
    They carry no firearms and have no backup.

    The Japanese and Koreans are out there all the time with “Mother Ships” storing their catch.

    Years ago they came into St.George. Fueled up et al.

    I can see now a Fisheries “Inspector” boading a vessel 50 miles off Bermuda and taking over and sailing that vessel back to port.

    Shark bait.

    • Onion says:

      Years ago they were fishing here with permission when they came in to fuel up.

      Now they don’t have permission and aren’t fishing here. If they are then the Act gives the wardens the power to enlist the help of others (police, regiment, locals, etc.).

      So basically if there are any boats here illegally we need to catch them in the act (GPS tagged videos and images should be good), board and seize their vessel, then publicly sink it in front of the BBC and CNN.

      • Terry says:

        Not disputing that at all Onion.

        It is going on today.
        All the technology in the world can tract a vessels movement as just a passing vessel. Don’t need permission to transit international waters nor ours.

        Buy the time the police and regiment get there they just keep going. Try boarding a vessel like that at 10-20 kts in 20′ seas.

        Only fuel for your vessel is 100 miles from start.


        • Onion says:

          Perhaps (I’ve been asking for someone to confirm first-hand seeing an illegal boat and nobody has).

          The presence of a marine reserve does absolutely nothing to change the impossibility of policing it.

        • EEZ Already Protected says:

          Terry, where is the proof that IUU fishing is occurring inside our EEZ? Pew, with all its resources, had Chris Flook parading around for more than a year with a single longliner’s fish hook. While that hook may have washed up on Bermuda’s shores that doesn’t necessarily mean it was deployed inside our EEZ. During the Blue Halo campaign, why didn’t Pew release satellite imagery and/or video footage from a small plane or drone that it could have easily hired to film IUU fishing inside our EEZ? Anecdotal evidence is no basis to support legislative change.

          To address your other point, even if IUU fishing is occurring inside our EEZ, it is not strictly necessary for Bermuda enforcement officers to board vessels on the high seas. With Project Scale and Interpol notices, the detainment of the vessel can occur, for example, in a foreign port when the vessel (or its mothership) is offloading its IUU catch. We simply need access to the resources to document any IUU fishing.

  10. Puma says:

    fish farming on land,you cerculate sea water…in confined areas within ecosystem cofines fish that need be somewhat nomadic due to varients in temp,water acidity due to rain fall,and even barometric pressure change,ion etc etc etc…then when they get sick it pssses on through water and can devistate a species……you have no assurance…no guarantees this will not transpire….so ethicly stupid.

  11. bluebird says:

    SO you are all looking for the TOOTH_FAIRY,to come and “BAIL” us out of the Financial mess that the previous Adminstration got us into.
    Well it ain’t going to happen.There is no :EASY”road except hard work
    of which the OBA seems to be working hard for Bermuda.

  12. aceboy says:

    Next time you see Mr. Furbert, Bean, Simmons etc. just ask them what precisely they plan on mning, who will pay for the capital needed to find out of it was there and who will fund the operations. Then ask them how well such an idea fits in with say…the Blue Halo project, which they fully support.