Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette recently announced that the Dominican Republic has become the latest country to sign up the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea.
Walton Brown, home affairs minister, said: “I am delighted to have the Dominican Republic join our Sargasso Sea family. “We now have ten government signatories and I am sure this will further advance the impact of this important and ground-breaking initiative.”
The declaration is a political commitment by the signatories to work with the Government of Bermuda and the Sargasso Sea Commission to conserve the Sargasso Sea — the high seas ecosystem in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. It was signed on behalf of the Dominican Republic by environment minister Francisco Dominguez Brito on April 6.
The Hamilton Declaration was unveiled in Bermuda in March 2014 by five Governments — the Azores, Bermuda, Monaco, the United Kingdom and the United States. The British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Canada signed in 2016 and the Cayman Islands joined a year later.
The Sargasso Sea, which covers almost five million square kilometres, is an ecosystem based on sargassum seaweed. The Sargassum mats act as a major spawning and nursery area for threatened and endangered species, including sea turtles and billfish, as well as for important commercial species like tuna, wahoo and dolphinfish. It is the only place in the world where the European eel and the American eel spawn. The eels then migrate 3,000 miles back to Europe and North America. The European eel is listed as critically endangered and the American eel is classed as endangered. Young eels, known as elvers, are caught and exported to the Far East for the sushi trade.
The EU has banned international trade in the young European elvers which has put increased pressure on other eel species, particularly American eels, which live in the rivers of the Caribbean region, including the Dominican Republic, but swim to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. The Hamilton Declaration mandated the Government of Bermuda to establish the Sargasso Sea Commission to “exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review”.
David Freestone, executive secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, said: “The signing of the Hamilton Declaration in 2014 was an historic event in the move towards conservation of the high seas. “The impact of the work of the commission will be greatly enhanced by the active collaboration of our regional partner, the Dominican Republic.”