Sargasso Sea Ecosystem Conservation Document: The Hamilton Declaration

sargassum_Sargasso_Sea

Premier Craig Cannonier signed the Hamilton Declaration at Tucker’s Point resort, which included Bermuda in a collaboration of nations who have joined forces to conserve the environment of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem. A last-minute change was made to exclude the Island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), about 175,000 square miles of ocean, from the area which would fall under a Commission charged with stewarding the area, because stakeholders had shown there was a ambiguity in the document.

The Sargasso Sea is a gyre in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, named for a free floating seaweed called Sargassum and is home to many endemic species and provide a protective nursery for juvenile fish and turtles. Bermuda sits roughly in the middle of this gyre. Mr Cannonier said: “As you may know, Bermuda is the only land mass in the middle of the Sargasso Sea. We see it as our responsibility to lead the stewardship of this unique marine ecosystem and to request the support and assistance of the international community in this task. “Additionally, I want to publicly state that the signing of this historic document will allow the stewardship of the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to remain solely under the control and management authority of the Government of Bermuda. We are committed to a high level of sustainable management of the resources of the EEZ and we have an impressive history to prove it.”

Commenting on the last minute change to exclude the Island’s EEZ from the area covered by the document, Mr Cannonier said: “We (Bermuda) would be wide open to interference — it left a loophole.” A previous draft of the Hamilton declaration showed Bermuda’s EEZ as included, while all other nations’ EEZs were specifically excluded. The Premier said he had consulted with Bermuda stakeholders that included individuals who wished to preserve the EEZ, and others who wished to explore it. “We should have the right to explore our waters and what lies beneath those waters,” he said. Referring to the potential of resources in Bermuda’s EEZ and reaping them, he said: “If we can find a way to do it sustainably then it will go a long way to diversifying our economy.” [. . .]

Mr Cannonier was one of five countries’ senior representatives to sign the accord. Other governments included the Azores, Monaco, the UK as well as the US, who sent their Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton.

Other nations represented were Sweden, Turks & Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, the Netherlands, The Bahamas and South Africa. Representatives from the Secretariats of five international organisations: The Oslo and Paris Commission, the International Seabed Authority, the inter-American Convenion for the Conservation of Atlantic Sea Turtles, the Convention on Migratory Species and International Union for the Conservation of Nature also attended.

Representatives of 11 countries and territories from around the Sargasso Sea and Europe reaffirmed their support for the initiative, led by the Government of Bermuda, to collaborate for the conservation of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem.

View/listen to announcement of the Hamilton Declaration here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7DUBN2LEOk#t=31

For full article, see http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20140312/NEWS07/140319921

[Photo above from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargasso_Sea]

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