Both sides of the fence: Chair of science and policy committee for the Bermuda Alliance for Sargasso Sea Jack Ward, left, challenges certain aspects of the marine reserve with Pew consultant Chris Flook during an interview with the Bermuda Sun’s Sarah Lagan on Tuesday. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
Both sides of the fence: Chair of science and policy committee for the Bermuda Alliance for Sargasso Sea Jack Ward, left, challenges certain aspects of the marine reserve with Pew consultant Chris Flook during an interview with the Bermuda Sun’s Sarah Lagan on Tuesday. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead

The 1972 Fisheries Act already states that $1 million fines can be handed out to foreign vessels fishing illegally in our EEZ and their boats seized. So what difference does it make to create a marine reserve and close off future potential commercial opportunities for Bermudians to benefit from? 

Mr Flook believes that current legislation doesn’t have teeth nor does it align with the global legal framework of creating marine reserves in local territories and on the high seas. 

Global scene

“This public consultation is literally asking what area are we going to re-legislate — because the current legislation is older and doesn’t really tie into what is happening on the global scene. We have Interpol [the world’s largest international police organization] which has started a new division called SCALES [to combat fisheries crime] and if we get the legislation right and gelled with that, there is a huge potential to be able to enforce it for the first time ever. 

“Somebody told me you wouldn’t even catch a cold with our legislation because it is so loose.”

Mr Flook recalled an incident in the 80s when a US vessel was caught illegally fishing in Bermuda. “NOAA called us and said it was in our EEZ but we didn’t have any recourse do anything. The case went to the US and they fined them for fishing in our waters. So it is about how do you tighten that up and gel it with that international framework so we can start to get a handle on it.”

Mr Ward makes the point that Bermuda could still update its current legislation without creating a no take reserve. He questions why we can’t just have a Marine Protected Area (MPA) that allows more flexibility for local commercial opportunities as it is not defined as no take. 

“Update the legislation absolutely,” said Mr Ward. “With an MPA you would have the flexibility to manage it adaptively by Bermuda. That is the concern I have with a reserve. And Bermuda — with such a good history of managing our marine resources — what suggests to us that we can’t manage that?”

Mr Flook countered: “It all boils down to bang for buck. If Bermuda is going to make an international statement it could be a big bold statement or it could be a complicated, multi-faceted statement and it comes to that crossroads of asking what are we going to call this thing and how is it going to be legislated? That is why the consultation is so important — people need to be engaged because no body’s opinions or comments are wrong or right. It is about getting those all on the table so that the people who are making the legislation have all the tools they need.

“Without a full marine reserve, you are not going to get the commitment from the other countries to jump in as deep. I was talking with David Freestone [Executive director for the Sargasso Sea Alliance] and they are saying we need to take the lead and do something that was part of the arrangement.” 


Chris Flook is marine consultant for the Pew Charitable Trust, an advocacy group invited by the Government of Bermuda to help facilitate a consultation process involved in creating a no take marine reserve in Bermuda’s EEZ.

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Jack Ward, is the former director for Conservation Services (2002 to 2009) and acts as chair for the science and policy division of the Bermuda Alliance for Sargasso Sea.



Marine reserve: Q&A


Does a reserve amount to ‘commercial suicide’?

What if opportunity knocks?

Why don’t we just use current legislation to fine illegal fishing operations?

Could a marine reserve attract an influx of eco-tourists and marine scientists?

What are the marine reserve choices?

Do marine reserves help the environment?
How can we enforce such a huge area?