On March 4th the Premier of Bermuda, Craig Cannonier, ordered that Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) not be included within the Hamilton Declaration, a multi-lateral agreement for increased protection of the greater Sargasso Sea. If he had not taken this important action, the Hamilton Declaration would have applied to the waters within the 200-mile radius around Bermuda and may have taken flexibility away from the Government of Bermuda in deciding how to manage their EEZ. The Hamilton Declaration is set to be signed and executed by the signatories on March 11, 2014 in Hamilton, Bermuda and will establish The Sargasso Sea Commission to “exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review.” It is expected that a number of interested governments, yet unnamed at this point, are will sign the Hamilton Declaration.
A recently formed group called the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone Stakeholders’ Caucus made up of conservationists, marine scientists, commercial fishermen, and recreational fishermen are playing an important in showing the importance of working with users groups to develop a plan for Bermuda’s EEZ. Following their meeting with the Premier and the Environmental Minister, the Caucus stated in a press release “The Premier made it very clear that the best interest of Bermuda and her people must be paramount at all times, and no risk of impediment complete control of our EEZ would be accepted.” The caucus believes “that decisions taken by the Bermuda Government that affect our EEZ must consider economic and social impacts as well as environmental and conservation issues.”
With an impending report on the future plans for Bermuda’s EEZ expected to come in the upcoming weeks, the decision of the Premier enables Bermuda to maintain flexible management of their EEZ that would not restrict recreational fishing or other potential economic activity in the waters around Bermuda. One SD department official states, “In the community, the polarizing groups have been coming together to discuss the topic. We are hearing more support for mixed use.” TBF applauds the work of the Stakeholders’ Caucus and the measures the government in Bermuda has listened to all of the user groups and members of the general public to try to find the best possible solution for increasing marine protection around Bermuda. TBF will continue to work with the Government of Bermuda and the members of the Stakeholders’ Caucus as Bermuda moves forward with how to manage their EEZ. To read TBF’s report on this important issue in Bermuda, click here.