Bermuda has the chance to become one of the first nations to dedicate the majority of their surrounding waters in their EEZ as a ‘no-take’ zone. This Blue Halo has been proposed to encompass the waters from 50nm – 200nm offshore, the edge of Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone. This would help protect and rejuvenate the waters within Bermuda’s jurisdiction, and also indirectly helping the waters outside of the EEZ. The ring inside the 50nm boundary would still have current regulations in place the same, and allow local fishermen to continue practices as usual, not losing any economic prospects.
While Sea Dragon was here in May, we worked with various different parties such as BIOS, BAMZ and BASS, and sailed out into the surrounding waters of the Sargasso Sea. We aided in research to understand the complex ecosystem so unique to this part of the world, which uses the Sargasso Sea as a rich feeding ground and a place to breed. During this period, the Blue Halo was very much so in the public eye and there was a lot of publicity surrounding the area and proposed legislation. While this has been on the table for quite awhile now, it has all come to a head this past week and public consultation has ended. It’s time for the Bermudian government to come to a decision on what is to come for the waters of Bermuda. While there is a lot of public support, there are also heavy concerns from different stakeholders on the island that don’t seem quite as keen on the idea.
Eric and I had the opportunity to attend the one and only public hearing at city hall, where all stakeholders were able to come together and discuss the different pros and cons to the initiative. We saw a lot of familiar faces from our May expeditions and it was quickly evident how strong feelings and opinions were in the audience. The discussion went on for two and half hours, with four experts on a panel onstage. The panel consisted of representatives from different areas; Dr. Tammy Trott from the Department of Environmental Protection, Chris Flook the Director of the Bermuda Blue Halo Initiative, Nick Hutchings the Director of Bermuda Marine Contractors Ltd., and Richard Winchell the former Principal Curator of the Aquarium Museum and Zoo. Those in attendance were able to hear presentations from each of the panelists and comment and ask questions. There were local fishermen, scientists, environmentalists and industry representatives in areas such as deep offshore mining.
One of the most interesting things we learned through talking to people here in Bermuda and from the city hall meeting, is that a huge issue with the Blue Halo is it’s exclusion of the possibility of deep offshore mining in Bermuda. This point has been raised so many times recently, not at all while we were here in May, almost frightening people into thinking this ‘lost’ economic resource would be so bountiful it should not be passed up. Curiously enough, not only is there not much evidence, as of yet, that great quantities of deep sea minerals exist to bring heaps of cash to the island, but the technology to mine at such deep levels doesn’t presently exist. Seems odd that something so circumstantial would harm of the efforts to protecting the area and allowing fish populations to once again become healthy one day.
Even with issues of lack of enforcement, the implementation of such a zone as the Blue Halo can set the stage for more to come in future for Bermuda and for that matter, for the entire world. The declining state of our fish stocks all over the world is such an issue; to take a stand so boldly would be fantastic for Bermuda – the little speck of land in the middle of one of the most important oceans. There’s evidence there is illegal commercial long-line fishing happening within the EEZ by foreign vessels, and maybe with the passing of such an initiative, there will be an opportunity for greater enforcement capabilities and funding.
Although there is some strong resistance for the Blue Halo, the support is very encouraging – and as a whole, I think Bermudians have their hearts in the right place. Now it’s a question for the government, not the people. The people have spoken and I hope the government takes all it has learned from the different sources, including our voyages into the Sargasso Sea, and chooses to do something. Whether a true “no-take” zone is established, or a multi-use marine reserve, I hope these waters are recognized for their importance and become more managed than they currently are.
For more information on the different organizations we have worked with here in Bermuda take a look at these links:
We will be coming back to Bermuda in 2014 – Key West to Bermuda Sail Training – and then our Bermuda to Iceland Transatlantic Voyage! For more information on our 2014 Sailing Expeditions – click here.