Bermuda’s commercial fishermen fired off another salvo this week against a recent stipulation implemented by the current government administration.

Notices were sent out that specific transponders will be mandatory by March next year.

In a post published via social media this week, the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda (FAB), said: “In typical autocratic fashion, Bermuda’s licenced fishermen have been notified that by March 2025, Automatic Identification System transponders will be mandatory on all licenced vessels.”

The post goes on to say: “Whilst the quoted legislation is not new – MERCHANT SHIPPING (VESSEL TRAFFIC MONITORING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS) REGULATIONS 2020.”

On that note, they say: “The industry is once again simply told about the change in a surprising manner.

“Admittedly, one can argue that the onus is on licenced fishers to keep abreast of legislation pertaining to their livelihoods.

“On the other hand, in the midst of all of the current controversy between fishers, regulators, legislators etc., one train of thought is that mending relationships would be at the forefront of any change management to do with fisheries regulations.

“Now, with the announcement that the commercial fleet will be required to have AIS onboard.”

The question that begs answering is this:

“With a fleet of about 150 licenced fishing boats, along with another 100 “Island “Boats” that includes dive boats, glass bottom boats, when will the THOUSANDS of private vessels be required to be outfitted with AIS?

“The implication that only licenced boats should be monitored is highly discriminatory and places undue pressure on business operators whose location can be commercially sensitive information.

“A recent decision published by the Information Commissioner’s regarding public access to information pertaining to a fishing boat’s location spells it out in detail.

“It appears that yet again, regulations designed to have good intentions, segregates a specific industry (commercial boat operators – fishing, tour boats, dive boats) with a deliberate outcome that is overreaching the boundaries of privacy and necessity.”

On this last point, the association asked: “What other measures will be putting place to implement surveillance on the Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing that takes place?

“When will AIS be mandatory for the thousands of boats that recreationally dive for lobster or scuba dive around the island or enjoy freedom to fish anywhere but monitored at a lesser degree while being the majority ocean users by sheer volume?

“Who will have access to the AIS data and under what conditions will it be reviewed or monitored?”

The statement goes on to say: “It appears that yet again, legislation has been designed for the purposes of surveillance rather than safety as units will need to be turned on for the majority of the time – exposing commercially sensitive data to an unknown amount of viewers.

“AIS EPIRBs are just one option that are suitable for the needs of Bermuda’s regulators rather than transponders that will report your location on a regular enough basis that where competition is concerned, any commercial advantage is now reduced to a minimum or eliminated completely which can cause a myriad of issues that takes away from the small scale, artisanal fisheries that exist in Bermuda.”

The post closes out with the following hashtags: #bermuda#fishinglife#fightsalty#industryrelations#overregulation#bermudatriangle#fisheries#fishermensassociationbermuda

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We will have more in subsequent reports.

Editor’s Note: In follow up to this report, the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda noted the following:

“They reference SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea International Convention). That only requires AIS on Vessels of 300 Gross Tonnes and larger (Bermuda’s tugboats are likely around 150 GT, all of Bermuda’s fishing boats are way smaller).

“Merchant Shipping (Vessel Traffic Monitoring) Regulations only requires AIS or VTS (Vehicle Tracking System) on vessels 150 GT and larger.

“The UK only requires AIS on fishing boats 15M (50 feet) and larger (very few of Bermuda’s fishing boats are this large).

“The US only requires AIS on fishing boats 20M (65) and larger.

“Nowhere in the world, including Bermuda, are our sized fishing boats actually required to have AIS.”

Top Feature File Photo By Bermuda Real