The Royal Gazette, July 5, 2024 – Opinion by Adam Farrell

The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme represents an unprecedented opportunity for the island to have a formalised plan in place to govern the sustainable use of its marine resources via the Marine Spatial Plan component. Just as we have a Bermuda Plan governing the use of our limited land resources, the MSP represents an opportunity to have something similar for our marine resources. This is long overdue and would highlight how the resources need to be used in a sustainable manner and protected for future generations.

Given global economic and political volatility, as well as the devastating effects of global warming, we now more than ever need to take stock of our own resources to make sure they are protected. It is paramount that we have a prevailing focus on sustainability and resilience whenever we consider our natural resources. For Bermuda, our marine resources include our fisheries, coral reefs, sea grass and mangrove forests. They are vital for our food security and protection when facing the new reality of global warming. But they face numerous threats from illegal fishing (foreign and local), ocean acidification, pollution from plastics, pesticides and fertilisers, invasive species (lionfish), coral-bleaching events, algal blooms, ocean-borne viruses, sea-level rise, more severe windstorms and changing ocean currents.

The BOPP has the Government’s formal commitment to enact legislation to support our Blue Economy and Marine Spatial Plan, and also to protect 20 per cent of our exclusive economic zone as marine-protected areas. For the most part, there is stakeholder agreement that Bermuda’s marine resources need to be protected and, to that end, local stakeholders have come together to express their views and have input into an extensive plan for the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources.

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce supports the BOPP in principle, but there are some underlying issues that we feel need resolution concerning fisheries management, including:

• The unmeasured impact of recreational fishing

• The significant threat to fisheries from the lionfish invasion and from pollution

• The lack of data collection and enforcement of existing legislation, which remains woefully inadequate

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