Fishermen’s Association Respond To BOPP Plan
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Fishermen’s Association Respond To BOPP Plan

The Fishermen’s Association Bermuda [FAB] has responded to the latest statement from the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme [BOPP] saying BOPP’s plan shows that it is “less about functional management and more about flashy PR statements and check-the-box style public consultation.”

A spokesperson said, “BOPP might consider their plan holistic because it touches on multiple aspects of ocean use and marine economic issues and environmental protection, but its lack of fundamental understanding of sustainable fisheries management shows that it is less about functional management and more about flashy PR statements and check-the-box style public consultation.

“It’s true, there were representatives from the Commercial Fisheries Council on the BOPP Steering Committee. What BOPP doesn’t tell you is that they were constantly frustrated that they were ignored and outvoted, their expertise and experience minimized.

“It’s true that multiple fishermen gave their input to the project. But BOPP doesn’t tell you that most left their meetings feeling disheartened because they gave detailed, nuanced information about multiple facets of sustainable fisheries management, but DENR and BOPP personnel merely nodded their heads and never put pen to paper to take notes until they brought the conversation around to maps, and trading this bay for that bay.

“It’s true that BOPP includes a proposal for recreational fishing licenses, and better enforcement. But BOPP doesn’t tell you that those things have been agreed upon as necessary by DENR, and promised to the commercial fishing industry, for upwards of 30 years. We will believe it when we see it. It holds no power as a bargaining chip, because we do not have faith in the Government’s full intention, resources, or capability to implement [sound familiar, farmers, taxi drivers, teachers and parents?]. Likewise, promises of “blue economy bonds,” which are more likely to go to energy projects than benefit fishermen, hold little water as enducements.

“They tell you they have consulted stakeholders, but they have ignored the actual input [again, sound familiar?].

“The problem with BOPP is that the core tenant of the proposal, which was signed in their initial 2019 MOU by Government, BIOS and the Waitt Institute, is “designating at least 20% of Bermuda’s waters as fully protected.” While “full protection” is not clearly defined in the MOU, FAB’s discussions with DENR and the Minister confirmed that it does in fact ban a number of activities, including all fishing.

“This catch-all philosophy enshrines a policy of lazy management. Rather than investigate the root causes of marine environmental and resource degradation, it slaps a label of “protected” on an area and calls it a day. Instead of relying on much needed fish stock analysis, and cultivating a cooperative relationship with fishers [commercial and recreational] to obtain better statistics to make informed fisheries management decisions, it is content to alienate them and proceed with zero buy-in.

“It’s also true that FAB declined to sign a new MOU with Government, even though we initially suggested it. What they gloss over is that after multiple meetings and revisions, most of the items were agreed [like recreational licensing and better enforcement, again, empty promises], but the above “full protection,” no fishing designation was not negotiable.

“We could move the areas around [proving that they are a political/PR tool, not a scientific one], but the premise was, in fact, set in stone from the beginning. This philosophy sets an unacceptable precedence for the commercial fishing industry. There is no trust that areas would not be expanded, or that we would not lose more areas to marine energy projects. There is no trust that further political, non-scientific management decisions would not be made.

“The number one success factor for MPA programs around the world is local fishing industry buy-in and support. Without that, any legislation stemming from BOPP is doomed to be a failure.”

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