A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by the Government that will introduce the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme in Bermuda.

Speaking a news conference on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban said he “encouraged” by the work government “will do together” with the WAITT Foundation and the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences – all partners in this project.

Joined by Ted WAITT, Founder and Chairman of the WAITT Institute and Dr William Curry, CEO of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, or BIOS, Mr Roban said: “The signing of this MOU signals a few key developments with regards to our economy, ocean spaces and the preservation of our environment at-large.

“Foremost Bermuda will develop and implement an integrated marine spatial plan, similar to the terrestrially based Bermuda Plan 2018 currently under development, by 2021. This will include the entirety of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone; which stretches 200 nautical miles offshore and totals some 465,000 square kilometers.
“This plan, which will be scientifically informed, will foster economic growth by developing an integrated approach to building sustainable ocean industries, such as wind and wave renewable energy solutions and will implement sustainable fisheries policies and programs that create positive incentives incentives to encourage responsible fishing.
“It is important to me that the marine spatial plan be an open and inclusive process. Therefore over the next 30 months, as the plan develops, stakeholders and the public can expect to be fully involved in the consultation process,” said Mr Roban.
He also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment “to achieving the highest standard of marine protection, which is essential to building ocean resilience, while at the same time ensuring economic resilience”.
“This agreement details the Government’s commitment to protect at least 20 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone, which equates to 90,000 square kilometers out of the total of our 465,000 square kilometers.
“These areas will be determined through the upcoming consultation process. This protection will create optimal conditions for the improvement of ocean industries like fishing and tourism – while ensuring environmental sustainability of our coastal and ocean areas,” said Mr Roban.

“This programme will support the Government’s stated goals of economic growth and diversification – while ensuring that Bermuda’s environment and beauty are preserved.

“Further a marine spatial plan will support the Government’s aim to incorporate environmental considerations in all Government decision making, and for environmental impact studies to be conducted on all major, and unusual marine developments and projects.”

The Minister also thanked the founder and the WAITT Foundation for providing “the funding, expertise and capacity needed to complete this critical work”.

“This project will no doubt leave a lasting legacy of sustainability and economic growth in Bermuda for generations to come.

“I would also like to thank Dr Curry and his team at BIOS for their expertise and knowledge that have been key to this process.

“Last but certainly not least, I would like to commend the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for their diligence and direction on this programme as well.”

In closing, he  also noted that June 5 was World Environment Day, and in light of that he added: “I find the signing of this MOU quite fitting and timely.

“The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme reaffirms this Ministry’s commitment a clean, sustainable and eco-friendly Bermuda. Today is a proud day for us all.”

Mr Waitt noted that “Bermuda has a long and robust history of ocean management and research, starting with the protection of sea turtles in the early 1600s”.

“The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences has been in Bermuda in one form or another for more than 100 years,” he added.

“Among its most notable achievements is the development of a decades-long series of measurements of the deep ocean and climate conditions, as well as a more detailed and comprehensive picture of Bermuda’s nearshore marine ecosystems. These activities support not only the advancement of knowledge about our local and global environments, but also benefit local policy-making, education, and conservation.

“Our contributions, whether in collaboration with the Government of Bermuda or with international partners, means that Bermuda continues to be a hub of scientific and educational activity that contributes to our understanding of threats to the ocean and the increasing risks posed by climate change.

“The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme will ensure this legacy lives on by leveraging current scientific understanding to preserve marine biodiversity for both its intrinsic environmental benefit, and its socioeconomic value. BIOS is pleased to be a part of this initiative that will no doubt serve as a model for other countries around the world.”