As a small island nation, having the resources to manage and enforce our protections has always been a challenge. However, the public will recall the announcement last November that Bermuda became the first Overseas Territory to join Blue Shield, soon bringing this to an end.
During their visit this week, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the UK Blue Shield Team consisting of Mrs Kylie Bamford from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Mrs Joanna Stockill and Mr Andrew Deary, both from the Marine Management Organisation.
For those unaware, Blue Shield is a maritime domain awareness programme established for UK Overseas Territories. The programme provides comprehensive tools to the Overseas Territories to defend their seas against illegal activities and offers a suite of support, including innovative technology and surveillance techniques.
The Blue Shield Programme is a new UK Government initiative to tackle illegal fishing and other unlawful activities around the UK Overseas Territories.
Announced in November’s Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), the Blue Shield Programme is the latest project funded by the Blue Belt programme, which actively protects and enhances over 4 million square kilometres of ocean globally.
The Blue Shield Programme will identify and analyse activities taking place within the maritime domains of Bermuda and other participating Territories that may impact the health and sustainability of our biodiverse marine environment. It will provide a complete picture of marine activities, which will allow improved management of our waters. The activities surveyed could include:
• Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing;
• Illegal ballast exchanges and dumping at sea;
• Commercial and recreational vessel activity; and
• Shipping activity.
Through establishing compliance and enforcement frameworks, Blue Shield will actively monitor activity, assisting us to ensure environmental regulations are met. Where necessary, Blue Shield will also help Bermuda to undertake enforcement action against non-compliance.
Blue Shield will support Bermuda and other Territories through specialist training for on-island staff to build local capacity and be given access to innovative surveillance and enforcement techniques which include:
• Using the latest satellite surveillance data to monitor maritime activity across our entire Exclusive Economic Zone.
• Deployment of bespoke underwater camera equipment to monitor and protect ocean wildlife. The data from which will be analysed by the University of Western Australia.
• Assessments within the EEZ using Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and satellite surveillance data to identify shipping trends and risks will help focus enforcement activity in our large 465,000 square kilometres EEZ.
• Passive acoustic units, which, once deployed underwater, can monitor the sounds of vessels with GPS positioning systems turned off; and
• Enforcement training to build in evidence collection, case file management, and specialist satellite surveillance technology.
Maritime domain awareness is currently provided to Overseas Territories, which are part of the Blue Belt; however, this vital capability is now available via the Blue Shield to all interested Overseas Territories.
I am very excited about Bermuda’s participation in the Blue Shield programme and thank the UK Government for their willingness to share this vital piece of technology that will help support our marine environment’s surveillance, protection, and management. Bermuda will continue to align itself with the highest standards needed for protecting our oceans.
Following on from our leading participation in the Sargasso Sea Commission, our involvement with Blue Shield further strengthens Bermuda’s role as custodian of one of the world’s foremost marine ecosystems.
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