The following statement was released today on behalf of the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme…
New data helps address the industry’s previous concerns, while updates reduce impacts to fishing
Since introducing the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan on August 25, 2022, the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme (BOPP) has conducted extensive community outreach–including a 107-day public consultation–to collect feedback on the Draft Plan. Alongside the Science Committee, Steering Committee, and community stakeholders, BOPP is continuing its work to update and strengthen the document based on input received from Bermuda’s residents and local industries, including commercial fishermen.
The Blue Prosperity Plan is a holistic approach to managing and protecting Bermuda’s ocean while reducing conflict between multiple user groups. It consists of a Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) and a Blue Economy Strategy that work together to create jobs, grow investment and business opportunities in marine industries, and support the long-term sustainable use of ocean resources. Bermuda’s marine resources–or “blue assets”–are the foundation for investments into key industries, such as sustainable fisheries, renewable energy, and marine tourism, that will fuel economic growth for the Island.
Multiple stakeholder groups, including commercial fishermen, were integral in creating the MSP’s Principles, Goals and Objectives during spring 2021. This document guides the plan’s development and outlines its intended outcomes. The final document was approved by BOPP’s Steering Committee, which included representatives from the commercial fishing industry. The door remains open for their continued involvement in the BOPP process.
A major concern raised by the commercial fishing sector during the public consultation was that complexities of the fishing industry had not been adequately considered in the design of the proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Such complexities include the various gear types used, the species of fish targeted, and the different areas fished on the reef platform throughout the year.
In fact, many of the items being requested to reduce impacts on the commercial fishing industry have been incorporated into the MSP as a result of individual meetings with fishermen, feedback received during the public consultation period and input gathered from the focus group series. As adjustments are made to the locations of protected areas, individual consultations with fishermen are ongoing, as they are with other ocean user stakeholder groups. In plans that impact multiple ocean users, it is vital that all ocean users have the opportunity for their voices to be heard in the process.
Data on Ocean Use
Data on how Bermuda’s residents use and value the Island’s marine spaces and resources were collected through an Ocean Use Survey, which was first conducted from September 2020 to February 2021. Over 1,400 responses were compiled and analysed using an online mapping platform. The survey methods and outcomes can be found online in the Bermuda Ocean Use Survey Results 2021 report.
The result of this survey is a set of maps that show what areas in Bermuda’s marine environment are considered most valuable according to how Bermuda residents use the Island’s ocean spaces. However, the information submitted by the commercial fishing sector was not detailed enough to be analysed in ways that could consider the complexities of their industry. To address this, the survey was reopened to this industry from November 2022 to March 2023. An officer from the Bermuda Government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources interviewed and spoke with individual commercial fishermen to gather more detailed information, often at times and locations that were most convenient to their fishing schedules.
The updated Ocean Use Survey provides more specific data about how local commercial fishermen utilise Bermuda’s waters. For example, these data better show where the most important fishing areas are for key species at various times of year and where different gear types are used. During this second Ocean Use Survey, information was gathered through direct meetings with 75 commercial fishermen, which represents 38% of the commercial vessel owners in Bermuda. This figure also represents 60% of full-time vessel owners and 29% of part-time vessel owners. Results from the updated Ocean Use Survey can be found online in the Bermuda Ocean Use Survey Results Appendix III: Additional Commercial Fishing Data report.
This updated survey is one of many examples of how feedback from the public, including commercial fishermen, is continually being used to inform and update the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan. The Plan is also working to address other concerns raised by the commercial fishing industry, including proposals for strengthened and new fisheries regulations that support improved data collection and fisheries management.
Recreational Fishing Licences
Proposals are currently being developed that will help close the gap in fisheries licensing by requiring licences and bag limits for recreational fishermen. Requiring recreational fishing licences and limits on catch helps to create a sense of shared responsibility for the use and management of these public resources. The proposals also call for recreational fishermen to report catch and effort statistics, similar to commercial fishermen. This requirement will provide additional data to inform our understanding of Bermuda’s fish stocks.
Adaptive Fisheries Management
In addition to catch and effort statistics, other data such as length and weight measurements, as well as biological samples, are provided by fishermen or observers for some species, like lobster and red hind. Such information, along with data collected during research activities, helps resource managers better understand the biology of the species and the dynamics of the fisheries. In addition, having current, species-specific data allows managers to more quickly change management strategies, if needed, to support the sustainable use of our marine resources. This is called “adaptive fisheries management.” However, successful adaptive fisheries management requires the long-term cooperation of resource users to collect key biological data for a variety of species and to provide accurate catch and effort statistics that help us better understand the status of the stocks.
BOPP will continue to provide updates as the Blue Prosperity Plan is developed. For more information on the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan, please visit https://www.bermudaoceanprosperity.org.