Govt On Marine Zone, Plans, Fishing & More

October 16, 2023 | 2 Comments

The Government released a statement covering aspects including the marine exclusive economic zone, Fisherman’s Association Bermuda [FAB] and more.

A Government spokesperson said, “While the Government appreciates that the Fisherman’s Association Bermuda [FAB] disagree with the commitment to fully protect twenty per cent of the island’s exclusive economic zone, developing a balanced and integrated marine spatial plan to safeguard our marine resources for current and future generations is critical to our future. The marine spatial plan will organise the use of Bermuda’s waters, balancing the demands for development with the need to protect the environment in full consultation with all stakeholders.

“The Government is committed to achieving the highest standard of marine protection, which is essential to building ocean resilience while at the same time ensuring economic stability. In considering the best way forward, it was decided that twenty per cent [20%] was a realistic protection target that would allow the development of a vibrant Blue Economy for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs and ocean ecosystem health while protecting sufficient habitat to allow for the sustainable use of ocean resources.

“In setting this target, the Government took note of Resolution 050 adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] at the 2016 World Conservation Congress, which called for countries to designate and implement at least 30% of each marine habitat in a network of highly protected MPAs. The Government also took note of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD] Aichi Target 11 and the Sustainable Development Goal 14, both of which called for protecting at least 10% of the marine environment by 2020 to sustain the habitats, fisheries, and health of the ocean, It should be noted that at the CBD Conference of Parties in December 2022, a new global target was set to protect at least 30% of earth’s oceans, coastal areas, and inland waters by 2030.

“While this target may be high for a small area as extensively used as Bermuda’s marine space, particularly the reef platform, following international best practices to the extent we can is essential. Twenty per cent of Bermuda’s waters equates to 90,000 sq. km of the 465,000 sq. km of ocean that Bermuda is responsible for managing.

“From the start of this process, the Government committed to full open consultation with stakeholders and the public around the designation of the protected areas. Over the last three years, the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme has diligently undertaken a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders and members of the public, and these can be found at

“The marine spatial plan, currently under development and very much in draft form, has proposed locating 19.9% of the committed 20% of fully protected areas outside the territorial waters within the outer regions of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Of the remaining, approximately 0.1% is proposed in the inshore waters, an estimated 10.1% of the reef platform. Additional highly protected areas are also proposed. This plan will continue to benefit from active engagement by all stakeholders, including the commercial fishermen.

“With this in mind, and at the request of the FAB, the Government willingly agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with the FAB and consulted in good faith to find a way to move forward constructively. Over several months and in full consultation with the FAB executive, at least four drafts were developed, with the latest attached.

“Except for the 20% commitment, all of the main requests from the FAB were agreed upon, including:

  • Implementing the plan in phases;
  • Ensuring the FAB’s participation on numerous boards and committees, including BOPP;
  • Developing a special sub-committee focused on fisheries-related matters;
  • Providing technical assistance to the FAB to help develop their proposal independently of the Government;
  • Committing to advise the FAB and all other stakeholders of any plans to change the level of protection in Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone;
  • Ensuring that any marine protected area in the territorial waters has good justification and rationale based on the best available scientific data as well as social, economic and cultural criteria;
  •  Providing full transparency as to the Government’s present and future financial commitment, investment, and expenditure in developing the plan.

“Furthermore, and subject to Cabinet approval, the FAB also requested:

  • The implementation of recreational fishing licenses;
  • Establishing additional harvest bag limits for recreational fishers; and,
  • Continued work with BOPP and the UK Government through the Blue Belt Ocean Shield programme to implement the Bermuda Marine Enforcement Strategy.

“The Government, in turn, requested that the FAB:

  • Participate fully in the BOPP process;
  • Agree to cooperate with the DENR to provide good sample data;
  • Affirm its intention to be good stewards of Bermuda’s marine environment; and,
  • Encourage the prompt reporting of any illegal fishing activity to DENR.

“Unfortunately, while the Government was ready to sign the draft MOU, the FAB refused these requests.

“In terms of marine enforcement, the Government acknowledges the real challenges of effectively enforcing the current nearshore marine areas. These challenges indicate the much broader problem of policing the vast entirety of the 200 nautical miles of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ], some 465,000 square kilometres, from illegal fishing by foreign entities. This historical problem requires innovative approaches to remedy, which is one of the main reasons for embarking on the BOPP program.

“Despite the challenges, the Government is committed to providing and facilitating the necessary resources to manage our EEZ effectively. Over the last several years, much has been achieved to add capability and capacity to local marine enforcement, including developing the Bermuda Marine Resources Enforcement Strategy, forming the Bermuda Coast Guard, and obtaining assistance from the UK’s Blue Belt Ocean Shield Programme and the US Coast Guard. These efforts have significantly increased the capacity of the Fisheries Wardens Section, and the partnership with the Bermuda Coast Guard continues to grow as new capabilities come online. As such, the island is positioning itself well for the marine spatial plan’s implementation phase[s].

“The Bermuda Marine Resources Enforcement Strategy and Action Plan [Dec 2021] was developed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in consultation with the Marine Resources Board and the Commercial Fisheries Council. This strategy was announced in the Ministry of Home Affairs annual budget brief for DENR and released to stakeholders during the BOPP program. The plan is being updated to include new initiatives from the UK’s Blue Belt Ocean Shield Programme currently being developed.

“In February 2022, Bermuda became the first UK Overseas Territory to join the UK’s Blue Belt Ocean Shield Programme, which aims to enhance our maritime awareness through improvements to our capacity and capability.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, explained, “I am happy to say that Bermuda has already seen significant investment into its programs over the past year, at no cost to the Bermuda Government or the taxpayer. Through the DENR Marine Enforcement section programme, the Marine Operations Centre and the RBR Coast Guard have received new equipment. They are now looking to benefit from access to cutting-edge surveillance and monitoring capabilities, bespoke training, and funding for a public awareness campaign.”

“We are also working with the US Coast Guard to develop and implement an offshore surveillance and monitoring program. Work started in the summer of 2022 with two cutter deployments that included local fisheries personnel on board as observers. In line with this programme, we are working on an MOU to allow the US to assist local fisheries enforcement directly. Due to Bermuda’s involvement, I am pleased to report that the UK’s Marine Management Organization has initiated a programme to work with the US Coast Guard to assist us.”

“We should be very thankful to our international partner agencies for providing state-of-the-art enforcement capacity and capabilities, allowing us to manage our inshore and offshore waters effectively.”

“It should be noted that the DENR regularly updates both the Marine Resources Board and Commercial Fisheries Council on all of these efforts.

“As we advance, the Government sincerely hopes that the Fisherman’s Association Bermuda will actively re-engage with the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme so that their knowledge and expertise can help create the best plan possible for Bermuda’s current and future generations.”

The full FAB Draft MOU follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (2)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    Increasing regulations when Government can’t enforce the current ones is a joke.
    Recreational licenses? This is clearly April 1. Fortunately this is the PLP and Roban is the Minister so nothing will get done.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      The “implementation of recreational fishing licenses”.

      When I first read that I thought the PLP Government was going to make Bermudians pay to go fishing, but that is not it at all. It was a proposal by the Fisherman’s Association Bermuda.

      Frighteningly, “the Government was ready to sign the draft MOU” with the Fisherman’s Association Bermuda, but the Association refused to co-operate with the PLP Government

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