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Fishing proposal is at odds with Blue Halo project, charges OBA

Royal Gazette
Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo by Chris Burville Commercial fishing: A swordfish is lifted from
the icebox aboard the longline fishing vessel Eagle Eye 2 in Bermuda
when it visited in 2007. Government has indicated it is looking at
the arena of commercial fishing as a possible revenue stream for the Island.

Proposed licencing for foreign fishing vessels stands in complete conflict with plans to preserve the ocean around Bermuda, according to Shadow Environment Minister Michael Fahy.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the OBA Senator said he was alarmed by a statement by Premier Paula Cox in her budget speech, in which she said Government has initiated discussions with relevant parties to assess the feasibility of establishing a licencing regime for international fishing in Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone.

Mr Fahy said the licencing regime potentially flies in the face of the proposed Bermuda Blue Halo project, intended to turn the Island’s unused marine territory into a marine reserve.

“The benefits [of the Blue Halo] will be enormous including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven,” Sen Fahy said. “We support this initiative wholeheartedly.”

He further expressed concern that fishermen could turn to long lines to catch fish in Bermuda waters, potentially resulting in extensive damage to the ecosystem and the Island’s reputation.

“These are fishing lines that are sometimes as much as 50 miles long, with thousands of baited hooks attached,” he said. “They are left in the water for days at a time.

“This method of fishing has been attacked by conservation groups the world over for what is called the bycatch the fish, turtles and birds that are hooked and killed, but not wanted by the fishermen and thrown away.

“If there were just a few of them, that would be one thing, but very often, the bycatch involves the slaughter of thousands of unwanted creatures.”

The Senator also said that Bermuda has in the past licenced international fishermen, but those ventures “fizzled out” due to a lack of interest from fishermen and Bermuda not having a large enough fish population to attract fishermen in numbers.

“If the Government is intending to licence fishermen regardless of the methods they intend to use, we would be squandering a hard-won reputation for being at the forefront of enlightened maritime thinking,” he said.

“We were the first country in the world to pass legislation to preserve wildlife, petrels and cedars, back in the 17th Century, and we passed groundbreaking and now much-copied legislation to protect fish from fish pots in the 1990s.

“The OBA is looking for clarification of the Government’s proposals. It seems to us you either support the Bermuda Blue Halo project or you don’t. You can’t really have it both ways."