Video: Government Announce Fishing Cooperative

September 30, 2020 | 13 Comments

“The Government will lead stakeholders to a sustainable and empowering future for Bermudian Fishermen and the Fishing Industry, enabling them to improve their lives and better provide for their families as we grow our economy with investments in which work for Bermudians,” the Premier said today.

This was stated during a press conference this afternoon [Sept 30] with Premier David Burt, BEDC Chairperson Jamahl Simmons, and M.O.V.E. Chairperson Willie Ferguson all delivering remarks on the Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative.

“I am proud to help launch the Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative; initially a private-public partnership that seeks to satisfy the national demand for locally caught fish,” Mr Simmmons said.

“This is an exciting development and I look forward to the economic empowerment of our Fishermen, and the enhancement improvement of our Industry, and a significant increase in Bermuda’s annual local catch.”

Mr Ferguson said, “The Cooperative will be running a pilot programme to test assumptions, and to establish the practices and processes that the full Cooperative intends to execute. We have also created incentives for Members, and we will also assess them according to results of the Pilot.

“We have a few spaces left for the pilot programme and interested Fishermen should send an email to btfcexecutive@gmail.com, or contact a M.O.V.E. Member who will provide further details.”

Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative Sept 2020

Premier Burt’s remarks:

Thank you.

I have invited you here today for an announcement for a project that has been underway since September 2018 and is now at the stage, where it requires public engagement. Before that, I would like to introduce you to the people who have joined me today.

Mr. Willie Ferguson is the Chairperson of the grassroots organization M.O.V.E. which stands for Mobilise, Organise, Visualise and Execute; and

MP Jamahl Simmons is here today in his capacity as the Chair of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation [BEDC] Board.

As long ago as 2005, a Government White Paper set out plans for the evolution of Bermuda’s Marine and Fishing Industries. The White Paper stated Bermuda needed a fish Cooperative and 2 Shoreside facilities.
Building plans were submitted to the Department of Planning in 2009, and those plans were approved. Regrettably, the then Recession severely impacted Government’s ability to construct the Facility and the plans were suspended until a more suitable time … that time is now.

Then in 2018 a group of Commercial Fishermen approached the Ministry of Economic Development for help. Several meetings were held, and the meetings culminated in a Cabinet pledge of support for the Fishermen and Industry…after that, the Fishermen approached M.O.V.E.

I will not preempt Mr. Ferguson’s remarks, but I will say that M.O.V.E. is the kind of organization with whom the Government is proud to partner. We wanted to help the group of Fishermen, and M.O.V.E., providing them with formality, and structure. M.O.V.E. also formulated an ambitious Plan that the Fishermen adopted…and it rests on the ‘Blueprint’ that was in the 2005 White Paper.

Fish is a Bermudian staple food. Regrettably, although we live on an island and are surrounded by healthy, crystal clear waters, it is not always easy to purchase local fish, creating an odd circumstance where fishermen sellout their product so cannot satisfy the entire demand. Most customers rely on “a hook up” to find local fish on any given day.

At the same time, over 300 families and homes rely on a Fishermen’s income, and given the uncertainty of weather, gear, and fish, if Fishermen are not fishing, they are not earning; if they are not earning, they cannot meet financial obligations. And, if a Fisherman’s boat needs expensive repairs, their ability to fund those repairs from their earnings and then return to fishing is rather challenging.

It is for those reasons that I am proud to state that when we released the 2020/21 National Budget, the Government allocated $1.5million to establish a Fishing Cooperative and Shoreside Facility. Bermudians may remember that on the 2nd of September the Finance Minister spoke to the media about capital projects that were earmarked for development and which funding had been moved up to the current budget year; the Fishing Cooperative and Shoreside Facility were included.

Mr. Ferguson will now speak about MOVE and its efforts to assist the Fishermen. After he is finished MP Simmons will provide an overview and I will wrap up.

Mr. Ferguson…
[Fergusons and Simmons speak]
Thank you, Chairman Simmons.

The time is right to launch this due to: the Current Situation [amount of imported fish], the need for increased Stewardship of our Ocean, and the need to stimulate of our Economy with capital projects that put Bermudians back to work and provide a better future for Bermudians.

As I close this announcement, I was told a story that piqued my interest.

A tourist couple had come to Bermuda, was staying in an Vacation Rental and the wife who was a good amateur chef, wanted to be able cook local fish for her husband on their last night; a tradition she does on every vacation. They advised the Host on arrival and although they were here for 3 nights and 4 days, they left Bermuda without cooking local fish; the hostess just could not find any fish within that time frame.

We live on an Island, yet local fish appears to be a delicacy. For most of us, buying fish is about luck…you’re driving home and see a sign; or if you’re really connected, a Fishermen will call you and tell you he has fish. But that is not the way we buy local eggs, vegetables, honey, milk, or bread; why is it so different for fish?

Perhaps with a Cooperative meeting the National Demand, the Tourist may have had a different experience, sampled our fish, and even exported some home.

There are many reports that have sat on shelves, and the issues in there have not been advanced. This project will not be one of them. The Government will lead Stakeholders to a sustainable and empowering future for Bermudian Fishermen and the Fishing Industry, enabling them to improve their lives and better provide for their families as we grow our economy with investments in which work for Bermudians.

Thank You.

Willie Ferguson’s remarks:

Thank you, Premier.

As the Premier stated, I am the Chair of MOVE: Mobilise Organise Visualise and Execute, a grassroots organization formed in 2015 that raises issues, people, and movements that preserve, support or promotes Bermudians and our way of life.

When we were approached by Fishermen who asked us for assistance, M.O.V.E. readily accepted the request and immersed ourselves in the Industry.

We created a Fisheries Committee, our Members fished, worked on boats, surveyed Fishermen, met with Ministers, and found every Government document that we could about Bermuda’s Fishing Industry.

We created a 50-question survey for Fishermen to determine the size of their boat, which fishing gear they use, their frequency of fishing, crew, venue from where they sold, expenses of a fishing trip, and of course their interest in evolving the Industry.

In addition, we worked on boats, read papers and data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, and spoke with the Founder of the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda.

Our experience showed us that while the Government is supportive of Commercial Fishermen, Fishermen face other threats. Some of those are: foreign, long-line fishing vessels in Bermuda’s waters, the lack of access to funding to repair boats to get them back overboard, and the impact of illegal, undersized fishing.

Marketwise, we found that it can be difficult for Residents to get local fish when wanted, because Fishermen sell their entire catch… normally within hours of offering it for sale.

The amount of imported fish that is sold in Bermuda, tells us that part of the solution is needing more fish, the other part is needing more strategy and unity to satisfy the National Demand for fish.

All of that data and experience was then compiled and analysed, and in 2018 we approached the Minister with our findings that led us to believe that a Fishing Cooperative was the most effective method to increase the Annual Catch and economically empower Fishermen.

We had a very fruitful meeting with the Minister, and a Technical Officer came to several M.O.V.E. meetings throughout 2019 to talk and to listen to Members and Fishermen.

It is for those reasons, and as a result of that due diligence and other work, that in the fourth quarter of 2019 we created a plan and timeline to establish the Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative.

The Cooperative will be running a Pilot Programme to test assumptions, and to establish the practices and processes that the full Cooperative intends to execute. We have also created incentives for Members, and we will also assess them according to results of the Pilot.

We have a few spaces left for the Pilot Programme and interested Fishermen should send an email to btfcexecutive@gmail.com, or contact a M.O.V.E. Member who will provide further details.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Jamahl Simmons remarks:

Back in 2017 I was contacted by a group of fishermen who wanted to see if Government would repeal the fish pot ban. We were not able to agree on the reinstitution of fish pots, however during discussions it was revealed that the Industry appears fragmented, with some observers making comparisons with taxi industry. Where the Taxi Industry has ‘prearranged’ and ‘solicited’ fares; the fishing industry has ‘commercial’ and ‘recreational’ fishermen, and their interests are not always aligned.

We are driven by data, so Technical Officers undertook research and provided me with data that showed the state of the Industry. They reported that the amount of fish we import annually is in the millions of pounds and there were dozens of species, so it was difficult make a fair comparison with the Local Catch. I advised them to only analyse the species that we could catch in our waters, i.e. no haddock, plaice, Chilean sea bass, etc.

Once I was given that data, it became clear that if the market forces continued unfettered, in the future, the average Bermudian might only rarely find Bermudian fish.

Today importers import in amounts that far exceed the Annual Local Catch. As an example, in 2017, with just the species that we can catch in Bermuda’s waters, local fishermen caught 385,000 pounds of fish, and importers brought in 757,000 pounds. However, in 2018, local fishermen caught 354,000 pounds while importers brought in 1,150,080 pounds! On average, over the last five years, importers bring in 2.5 times the Annual entire Local catch.

When Tourists ask for local fish, when Bermudans want to serve local fish at functions, they expect and want fish caught in Bermuda’s waters, and our fishermen do their outmost to supply that demand; and this is where other entities also have a role.

As you will be aware the BEDC has a Cooperative Economics Unit, and the BTFC’s volunteer Board has held meetings with BEDC Officers several times in 2020.

In addition, the BEDC is a board member of BOPP, the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, an initiative designed to plan and utilize our 200sq. mile. economic exclusive marine zone surrounding Bermuda.

Part of BOPP’s remit is to liaise with Stakeholders, and while there are other bodies, a Fishing Cooperative combines Fishermen’s commercial interests with stewardship of the Sea.

Accordingly, given M.O.V.E.’s work, BEDC, BOPP and other public and private bodies role, I am proud to help launch the Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative; initially a private-public partnership that seeks to satisfy the national Demand for locally caught fish.

The BEDC and BOPP each have a role to play in our Marine Industry, and the Bermuda Triangle Fishing Cooperative [“BTFC”] has the support of the BEDC. This is an exciting development and I look forward to the economic empowerment of our Fishermen, and the enhancement improvement of our Industry, and a significant increase in Bermuda’s Annual Local Catch.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    Absolutely crazy and not thought through. There was a processing plant on Morgan’s Point way back that failed. To support a processing plant here will need the reefs to be cleared of fish, including fish like parrot fish. Visit Jamaica and ask for a snapper and you will get a whole fish about 8 inch long because the fish have been decimated.
    Bermuda does not have the resources to increase its catch much beyond the current catch. Deep water fish such as swordfish will not support a fishery. Local fish is also more expensive than imported, just like most vegetables such as corn.
    The reefs will be devastated and die. Is that what Bermudians want?

  2. This is stupid says:

    This is without doubt the dumbest thing yet. Please don’t buy into the stupidity Bda.

  3. wahoo says:

    This from our “savy investors” ……SMH we are so F’ed.

  4. Karma says:

    Seriously!!!!! Just over a year, maybe ago, a bunch of casual fishermen foolishly video taped themselves on their boat and at their dock with a bunch of illegally caught rockfish. They broke EVER rule and law. Someone tell me – what happened to those men? Anyone? The answer is absolutely NOTHING. So why go thru the hassle?

    Why should anyone apply for a fishing license spend thousands on licenses, sign up for any programs and provide data to a Fisheries Department that will do nothing with that data. Licenses are just a means to get money to fund government jobs! Not saying that the people that are in these departments don’t want to do anything, its more than a government – red tape thing. No different than the Customs and Immigration that ask you to fill out forms on every arrival and do nothing with the info compiled.

    Anyone else notice that during the winter months when there are many days of bad weather or after a storm when weather conditions are less than ideal for many days that every Friday you still see FRESH FISH FOR SALE signs up on Fridays? Is it still fresh fish? Is it even local fish? Who at fisheries is checking? Why participate in anything at fisheries when NOTHING will be done based on the data.

  5. Donna says:

    It will fail.

  6. Circada says:

    Our fish stocks are already depleted. It is well documented. Read scientific reports z not business reports. We only catch 2 of the original 7 species of grouper that were plentiful 100 years ago. Annual catch is less than 50,000 lbs when it used to be over 400,000 for grouper. Its not market forces. Its ecology and decades of overfishing of a locally limited resource. Increasing catch by 2 to 5 times is probably impossible,
    and will destroy the fishery in less than 5 years.

  7. Hey says:

    What a load of nonsense, all to try and get last minute votes. You have had 17 of the past 21 years to do this, now you whip something out the night before an election. You must think Bermudians are stupid, SMH at your shameful ness.

  8. Some Guy says:

    Bad move…the fish are in a terrible state. We need many FEWER caught, not more!

  9. Unbelievable says:

    This reeks of PLP pre-2012. A programme that went nowhere.

  10. Guy Carri says:

    What?
    Don’t we already complain of overfishing?
    We already don’t have as much fish as we want/need in our ocean.

    You guys are out to lunch…I would say having a fish sandwich but you all like the Catch of the Day at Market Price as that tax payer dollar keeps flowing.

  11. Real Deal says:

    2005 Sad i been saying this since a long time ago fixing fishing could solve a whole bunch of problems by it self. to bad it was not first on this list from the get go

  12. Vigilante says:

    OK, someone please take Dave, Jammie and Willie for a snorkel or a dive anywhere on the island and then ask them about “significantly increasing Bermuda’s local catch”. Bermuda’s fish stocks have been depleting steadily for the past 30-40 years and are now near zero. 50 years ago you could catch big snappers and grunts right off any dock on the island. Now you would be lucky to get a small one. When I see fishermen cleaning catches of juvenile turbot I know we are in trouble, and the fishermen are not the ones to ask for help. Most of the rest of the world is revisiting their environmental obligations, Bermuda must do the same with its most precious natural resource, the ocean on our doorstep. Spend the money retraining the fishermen or give them aquaculture options…taking what little is left from the water is absolutely not the answer!

  13. Recalcitrant says:

    They look like idiots; why would the ideas that brew in their minds be anything but idiotic?

    Can any of these fools tie a bowline? Much less tell us about the state of our fishery…?

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