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Bermuda is on a mission to expand its marine conservation laws

Through consultation with residents and local fishermen, Bermuda is looking to expand its ocean conservation efforts. Named The Blue Prosperity Plan, the project will attract global investors to its Blue Economic Zone in exchange for protecting its vibrant marine habitats.

The island of Bermuda is often referred to as the ‘jewel of the Atlantic,’ and for good reason.

Though commonly mistaken as part of the Caribbean, Bermuda is located in complete isolation in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Its nearest land point is the American state of North Carolina – a vast 1,030km stretch from its shores.

The tiny, 21m² island’s remote location and strict conservation policies have allowed it to retain its rich marine biodiversity. Aside from low levels of washed-up plastic pollution, it remains relatively unscathed by environmental degradation.

Coral bleaching events do not occur here, thanks to Bermuda’s temperate climate which allows its lush coral reefs and the abundance of life within them to flourish year-round. In spring, humpback whales can be spotted migrating through pristine blue waters several miles off the coastline.

Now, the local government is partnering with the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Project to expand existing marine conservation laws further. The likelihood of the project happening has been bolstered by international investors looking to finance the island’s blue economy.

What does the Blue Prosperity Plan entail?

As a British Overseas Territory (BOT), Bermuda would typically be forced to protect 30 percent of its waters under the UK’s new initiatives to boost and restore biodiversity locally and across all its affiliate nations.

However, The Blue Prosperity Plan appears to be a direct response to Britain’s new policy, which makes sense when you realise that BOT’s are home to 94 percent of UK’s claim to natural species.

Many nations will want to control their local assets in a way that works for them – and rightfully so.

Draft versions of the document suggest that at least 20 percent of waters located within Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone will be placed under strict protection if the plan goes through. This area includes any part of the Atlantic Ocean within 200 nautical miles (230 miles) off the shores of the island.

In order to monitor the zone from inland, the use of technological devices such as aerial drones, underwater submersibles, laser imagining, and satellites would be put to work.

The public, including the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda, have been consulted on the project. Though many feel optimistic, there has been pushback from fishermen who believe the new legislation will negatively affect their livelihoods.

What are marine protections like at the moment?

Bermuda’s waters already boast a number of protected areas.

The yellow areas in the chart above mark radius’ where fishing is strictly prohibited. These areas are hotspots for marine life and may only be used for diving and ocean research.

Anyone who breaches these regulations risk facing heavy fines and imprisonment.

There are also existing regulations on fishing practices in Bermuda. For example, spiny lobsters – a local delicacy – can only be fished in specific months and must only be plucked from designated sea areas.

Those looking to capture them have to work hard, too, as trap cages are not allowed. They must be caught by hand by divers, who embark on an underwater battle with the animal’s spiky armour and long antennae before bringing them aboard boats.

Similar protections are placed on the number of permissible catches for certain species, as well as fish size limits and net capacities. Other fish – such as the colourful Parrotfish – are illegal to hunt at all.

Keeping tabs on illegal fishing is accomplished through a partnership with the UK called the Blue Shield Scheme. The nation also has affiliations with the US Coast Guard to conduct regular sea patrols.


What are the benefits of the Blue Prosperity Plan?

Not only would protected areas of Bermuda’s ocean be expanded, but gaining financial investment from international bodies to do so will help boost the country’s green agenda.

At Thred, we’ve written about how international investments related to the environment and climate change have helped other countries rich in biodiversity to boost their local economy and excel in their green agendas.

The expansion of the global blue economy will be vital in helping small nations use their ocean resources sustainably, improve livelihoods and job opportunities, and perhaps most importantly, adapt in the face of a changing climate.

Hoping to mimic the success of other nations, Bermuda has great potential to harness energy from renewables such as wind and solar. The economic boost from protecting its marine environment would allow a move towards clean energy.

According to local leaders, investors are already ‘knocking on [Bermuda’s] door,’ including a well-known, London-based group called Finance Earth. The organisation has made a name for itself by supporting clean energy projects globally.

As a Bermudian myself, I’d love to see the island’s green efforts take off exponentially. Let’s hope that discussions, which will continue throughout 2022, conclude with a fruitful agreement.