On March 11th governments from across the world will travel to Bermuda to sign the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea.

The Declaration is a non-binding political statement that will be signed by various governments who are interested in voluntarily collaborating on efforts to conserve the Sargasso Sea - a vast patch of ocean named for a type of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum.*

The meeting of the signatories will discuss proposals that will be directed through existing international and regional organizations to seek conservation measures for this area of ocean. 

Bermuda’s Minister of Environment and Health the Hon. Trevor Moniz JP MP said, “The benefits which are anticipated to stem from the signing of this Declaration will include worldwide recognition of the Sargasso Sea as an ecologically important and unique global resource and Bermuda being seen as a global leader in initiating international collaboration for high seas protection.”

The March Meeting has been spearheaded by the Government of Bermuda which leads the Sargasso Sea Alliance.

The governments represented will pledge support for the initiative to conserve the Sargasso Sea – the two million square mile ecosystem that surrounds the islands of Bermuda.

As signatories, governments will also gain the ability to be consulted by the Government of Bermuda in the selection of commissioners for the Sargasso Sea Commission.  This Commission will be set up following the signing of the Hamilton Declaration. It is important to note that the Commission does not have a management role - its broad mandate is to exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review. 

The Commission will be composed of distinguished scientists and other persons of international repute committed to the conservation of high seas ecosystems. The Government of Bermuda, in consultation with the Signatories and Collaborating Partners, will select qualified individuals to serve on the Commission.  Commissioners will be unpaid and will serve in a largely virtual setting.

The Hamilton Declaration defines the Sargasso Sea ecosystem to include international waters or areas beyond national jurisdiction as well as Bermuda waters, but the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will remain under the sovereignty and management authority of the Government of Bermuda. 

“Bermuda has always been a leader in marine conservation since the banning of fish pots decades ago,” said Minister Moniz. “And now by taking the lead to conserve the Sargasso Sea through the organizing, hosting and chairing of this conference we further affirm our reputation as stewards of the sea.”

The meeting next month is entirely financed by the Sargasso Sea Alliance.

The Sargasso Sea Alliance was recently awarded the prestigious Seakeeper’s Award to recognize their efforts in working to protect the Sargasso Sea. In 2012, the Alliance also brokered an agreement to establish a 172,000 square mile marine mammal sanctuary in Bermuda’s EEZ and a Sister Sanctuary agreement with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (USA).

 * The Sargasso Sea is a region in the gyre in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of ocean currents forms the North Atlantic Gyre. The Sargasso Sea is 1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long (700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees west to 40 degrees west, and from 20 degrees north to 35 degrees northBermuda is near the western fringes of the sea.