With just days to go until the end of the consultation period for a marine reserve in Bermuda, now is the time to fill out the form if you haven’t already. *Photo by Chris Burville
With just days to go until the end of the consultation period for a marine reserve in Bermuda, now is the time to fill out the form if you haven’t already. *Photo by Chris Burville
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The end of the public consultation on whether part of Bermuda’s EEZ should become a marine reserve is fast approaching.

But how many of us feel informed enough to be able to make a definitive decision? It is a multi-faceted, complex issue that throws up a multitude of questions like – Why don’t we just use our current legislation to fine illegal fishing operations? Would a marine reserve limit Bermuda’s commercial potential? Do marine reserves really make a difference to the environment? Would a reserve attract an influx of eco-tourists? Why does it have to be “no take”? Will a marine reserve affect local fishermen’s livelihoods? If a marine reserve proves detrimental, can we go back on the decision?

These are all questions that we should be asking as the October 31st deadline approaches. The Bermuda Sun’s Sarah Lagan sat down with Chris Flook of the Blue Halo initiative, a project of the Pew Charitable Trust, and Jack Ward, chair of the Bermuda Alliance for Sargasso Sea’s science and policy committee to discuss two differing opinions about whether Bermuda should push ahead with a marine reserve. (Government has distanced itself from using the term Blue Halo — a term introduced by Pew).

Whichever side of the fence you are sitting on, your voice can be heard through the consultation process. 



B
orn and bred Bermudians Jack Ward and Chris Flook have differing opinions about the way Bermuda should proceed with protecting the waters within its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Mr Ward is disappointed that the first conversation we are having about Bermuda’s EEZ is about shutting it off to potential commercial activities —
 activities that could one day benefit Bermudians. 

Precedent

He does agree that Bermuda is in a privileged position to set a global precedent in terms of conservation but is eager to make sure it is done the right way. 

Mr Flook says a full marine reserve is an essential component in achieving the wider goal of working with nations to have the Sargasso Sea at large protected. This would put Bermuda at the forefront of ocean conservation working as the catalyst for the first high seas marine reserve in the world.

One thing that both agree on is that the public discussion should have started much earlier. 

The Sustainable
Development Department, created by government as an independent public consultation body, has just announced a public panel discussion next Monday — two days before the consultation deadline.

Mr Ward believes the process is back to front: “I would have suggested that you start with a presentation on day one and provoke the discussion in an informed fashion right from the start. I think that putting the public discussion on the back end almost necessitates an extension… I don’t think it is well integrated into our community yet. My real concern is that this will end up being seen as so inconclusive that everything will be put on the back burner and absolutely nothing will get done. That would be a shame because the big objective, and I don’t think Bermuda even understands this, is to support the Sargasso Sea high seas reserve.

Mr Flook added: “It’s been a three-year process and I think it’s a little disappointing that we’ve only started to have these conversations in the last two months or so. 

“I think that is doing the whole idea of protecting the Sargasso Sea, and Bermuda making a marine reserve a bit of an injustice. 

“I think that has been the biggest downfall we are only just hearing from government about stakeholder group engagements and the public meetings.” 

The Bermuda Sun put a number of important questions to Mr Flook and Mr Ward ahead of the consultation deadline.

• 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. 

• 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.



Get informed and participate:

The full 13-page consultation document can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/17gnS9K

• Link to 2-page consultation flyer: bit.ly/1eL2oRy

• Public meeting: Community Conversation —Bermuda’s EEZ and It’s Future. October 28, from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the Earl Cameron Threatre at City Hall, Hamilton.

• Consultation deadline: October 31

• To see the current fisheries act visit: www.tinyurl.com/bdafisheries

• Take the survey: Online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/MarineReserveBda. Alternatively, you can print the consultation flyer select your option and deliver to the Sustainable Development Department, 31 Reid Street, Hamilton HM 12 or email sdd@gov.bm by 31 October, 2013 (next Thursday).