What follows is a letter to the editor I wrote regarding the creation of a Blue Halo zone around bermuda. More information on the Blue Halo Project can be found here, on the Blue Halo organization’s website, and below.
The Blue Halo wishes to form a marine reserve so that we can preserve some of the Sargosso Sea; making it a no-take zone. The positioning of it is like a doughnut around Bermuda with the hole containing Bermuda in the middle and leaving us inshore waters so that recreational fishermen can continue to use the ocean around us. The Halo will be on the outer rim of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Debates about whether the Halo should be established have been happening since about a year ago, and there are mixed views. The largest opposition is from people who think they might want to start a marine mining industry, which, in my opinion, is completely absurd and the reason for which is outlined the letter below.
It’s up to us to lead the way in protecting the Sargasso Sea because we’re the only land mass in it, so through use of our EEZ we’re the only people capable of protecting part of the sea, since the high seas (seas outside of countries EEZ’s) are a no man’s land which no-one can claim. I see no negatives to its creation, and a multitude of positives. Not only would its creation ensure some part of the Sargasso Sea was protected for present and future generations, but it would put Bermuda on the map as environmentalists and as an ecotourism attraction.
Recently, Bermuda signed a declaration which basically united them and other nations to keep talking about and monitoring the Sargasso Sea. It’s a nice first step, but it’s not legally binding and the political equivalent of a promise, which means nothing. The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo hosted a two day youth conference (which I attended) about the Sargasso Sea, it’s importance, and what we can do to help.
Chris Flook, the head of the Blue Halo project was there and emphasized it’s importance, but also emphasized that the government was putting of the project in light of other events. He recommended we do all that we can to get the project in the media to hopefully pressure the government into action, and that’s what inspired me to write this letter.
After attending the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Youth Conference last week, I feel compelled to write this letter purely out of concern for the way which Bermuda seems to be going; somewhere which appears to value politics more than our environment. It is extremely worrying that, even after the results of a public consultation, which showed that 80 percent of our population agreed with the creation of the Blue Halo zone, we are still no further forward in its creation.
It seems obvious to create the zone, a ring on the outer rim of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which would serve to be one of the largest fully protected marine reserves in the world. As if the preservation of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem, one which, among other functions, provides invaluable breeding grounds and migration routes for a multitude of species, is not enough, the reserve will also deliver second-hand benefits to Bermudians. The Blue Halo has the potential to provide the boost in tourism we have been in need of for years by making us the centre of eco-tourism, the fastest growing sector of the industry.
The placement of the ring would leave sites for recreational and commercial fishing already used by the island’s inhabitants untouched, leaving the only argument against its creation to be the possibility of a marine mining industry. This extremely costly practice is a mineral retrieval process which takes place on the sea floor, attempting to garner mineral ores such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc.
The economic viability of the practice is uncertain. This is due to the improbability of actually finding any of the minerals mentioned above, as well as the fact that a large quantity of raw ore must be gathered to reap any return due to the costs of refining it.
Though the reality of its economic return is unclear, the damage it will cause to seabed environments is; causing increased toxicity of the water column and increased sediment which, due to decreased water clarity, could have a catastrophic impact on photosynthetic organisms (such as corals) in our waters.
On March 11, 2014, Premier Craig Cannonier signed the Hamilton Declaration, making Bermuda part of a group of nations who have agreed to conserve the Sargasso Sea ecosystem. This document is the first step in protecting the ocean around us, but is not legally binding and is nowhere near the end result. The next logical thing to do is to move forward with the Blue Halo project and act on what we have agreed to in the declaration.
We are sitting in the middle of a golden rainforest which provides an ecosystem that our oceans would not be able to function without, somewhere which, if it is protected, promises to put us among the top global advocates for the environment, and so I hope that Bermuda can move forward and do what is right to protect the Sargasso Sea for present and future generations.
This letter was published in The Royal Gazette on March 17th 2014.