Fishermen’s Association On Proposal

March 15, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Patrick Bean]

The Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda [FAB] has viewed, with scepticism, recent comments made in the House of Assembly by Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban.

Within his statement the Minister noted that he was yet open to input from stakeholders relevant to the implementation of the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan compiled by the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme [BOPP], which is designed as a community-driven programme to foster the sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable use of ocean resources.

Of particular interest to FAB was the Minister’s notion of employing an independent body to assess proposed amendments and recommendations to the draft y stakeholders.

A key element of the stakeholder group, the FAB recently released a plan which focused on the co-operative management of fisheries as an alternative to the BOPP draft, which proposed the closing of some 20 per cent of Bermuda’s waters to fishing.

“With respect with the comments made by the Minister, the Honourable Walter Roban, nothing he said surprises me,” said FAB president Allan Bean Jr. “The same words he used are the same he has used before. We’re used to that.

“It piques my curiosity what he said about this independent body though. I’m curious to find out who these individuals are, what background they have in respect to the environment of Bermuda and its ecosystem, how have they have interacted with, not only the science community, but with the fishermen and members of the fishing industry, will they seem to be an impartial body clear across the board.

“These things are important to us. We want a group that is seen to be impartial and not carrying baggage — for lack of a better word — where they are tied in lock, stock and barrel to an environmentalist group or science group or what have you.

“We would like to have a body that can listen fairly to the comments made by everyone who is making submissions. That’s a problem that has gone on in the past.

“The fisherman have given input, but because there has been a total lack of respect for what we bring to the table, the person we have been speaking to listens to what we’re telling them, but doesn’t hear us. That has been the problem.

“There has been a total lack of respect given to those individuals who make up the Island’s food producing industry, a critical industry which is about food security for the people of this island. “We are fisherman. We’re out there making a living. We have a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table, but we are not given the respect that we truly deserve.

“It’s all about respect, bottom line. Once we have respect we can communicate and then seek to have cooperative dialogue going forward to come with ideas, thoughts and plans that will be in the best interest of Bermuda and it’s marine ecosystem/environment.”

FAB secretary Jamie McCrae echoed Bean’s statements, while questioning Government’s attempts to institute costly reforms.

“I think really the communication is key,” said McCrae. “We need to have a framework to understand how decisions get made.

“Our plan is not necessarily specific in terms of setting quotas for particular fish stocks or anything like that. We’re not trying to be that specific in our plan.

“Our plan is a way to, basically communicate, so that we can get from formulas, means to observe and manage a specific stock, so that when it falls below a certain level certain protections kick in.

“If we have formulated agreements in place ahead of time we can dispense with a lot of arguments and conflict.”

McCrae highlighted the expense associated with being able to effectively enforce fishing restrictions proposals contained in BOPP’s draft plan, the FAB executive member saying that demands of BOPP appeared cost prohibitive.

“We would certainly have to work with government on that,” said McCrae. “I know that Government has been working on an enforcement plan.

“We haven’t seen it as of yet and that’s kind of the problem, in that we have received a lot of promises on enforcement.

“We’ve had promises for getting the recreational fisherman included in the regulatory framework. We’ve had a lot of promises and we haven’t seen anything.

“This is a department that is resource challenge and we understand that.

“What we really want to do is have this department get the resources that it needs to do their jobs.

“We don’t know what the hold up has been for getting these things done, but just in the last year it took them two months to fix their card printer. Some of their trucks did not get passed by TCD, so they were off the road. They didn’t have gas for their boats.

“They don’t have resources to implement a lot of the things that are included in BOPP, so we need to work together to find some cost effective ways to do this.

“Geographic closures to fishing is about the most expensive thing you can think of in terms of implementation and monitoring and enforcement, so why do we need to go that route.

“We have something that is a very questionable benefit that is a very high cost. So thinking of it as a cost benefit perspective.

“Let’s have some reality here.”

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