Longline fishing involves setting miles of baited hooks across large areas of open ocean and often involves other species being caught. *Photo by Creative Commons
Longline fishing involves setting miles of baited hooks across large areas of open ocean and often involves other species being caught. *Photo by Creative Commons

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: Plans to develop an offshore longline fishing industry in Bermuda have been shelved.

Strict international ‘quota’ regulations mean there is limited potential to develop a money-spinning fishery in the island’s territorial waters, environment chiefs say.

Government sparked a backlash when it commissioned a research project into the viability of longlining in Bermuda in 2007.

The fishing method, which involves setting miles of baited hooks across large swathes of open-ocean, is controversial because it often involves incidental ‘by-catch’ of other species.

A US deep sea fishing boat Eagle Eye II was commissioned to make four trips into the 200-mile economic exclusion zone to see if longlining could work in Bermuda.

Not viable

The research was intended to inform Government policy on whether or not to attempt to develop a fishery in Bermuda.

But Dr Ming said international regulations restricting the amount of tuna and swordfish that can be hauled in by fishermen meant it was not viable on a large scale.

He said: “The conclusion was that there were fish out there to be caught, but the allocation we get from the International Convention of Atlantic Tuna (ICAT) would have supported only one or two vessels.

“We didn’t push it because there was not the quota to sustain too many vessels.

“The fish are passing through our waters and going some place else to get caught.”

ICAT designates ‘quotas’ for all species of fish, restricting the amount that can be caught.

A separate plan for a shoreside facility to help support the local fishing fleet could still go ahead, Dr Ming added.

Government submitted a planning application in 2009 for a facility at Ship’s Wharf in St David’s to include a loading dock, processing hall, air blast unit, cold storage room, fishing gear shop and ice machines.

He said: “This was going to be a place which would process fish landed on its docks.

“For instance when you have the Wahoo run you have a large catch in a very short space of time — we know some of this is probably going to waste.

“This facility would provide a means to flash freeze fish to a very high standard.

“Government’s role would be in providing a facility for the fishermen to operate.

“The model was presented as a business proposition to the commercial fishing sector. There has been some interest and it is still an option.”