The Government must conduct a robust public consultation before the development of a sustainable offshore fishing industry, a conservation action group has said.

Plans to create a marine protected area that prohibits fishing – as well as a fishery – that could help to fuel the economy, originally set out in 2019, were revisited during last Friday’s Throne Speech.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said: “Sustainability should be an overriding theme that is part of every conversation and embedded in every plan to do with future development of our marine resources, especially our fishery.

“We would expect the Government to engage with Department of Environment and Natural Resources and make public its recommendations with regards to any plans around our fishery.

“Key stakeholders and the public should be consulted, as well as independent NGOs such as the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and BEST.”

Assessment of fish stocks and enforcement would also be key, the charity said.

The spokesman added: “Reliable and regular fish stock assessments need to be undertaken to guide decision making and update policy.

“Enforcement of our existing laws and regulations needs to be key and any legal loopholes closed to make it easier for fishing wardens to successfully prosecute those who are in breach.

“Any new development should be backed by a business plan that contemplates the above and demonstrates clearly that any near-term economic benefit does not impact the near- or long-term sustainability of our fishery.”

The Government’s plan to protect 20 per cent of an area of Bermuda’s waters known as the Exclusive Economic Zone would be “meaningless” unless the protection included the most environmentally sensitive areas, the spokesman added.

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