Cabinet Approves Dr Robbie Smith as Sargasso Sea Commissioner

The Cabinet has approved the appointment of Dr. Robbie Smith and Sen. Wilfred Moore as the new international experts to the Sargasso Sea Commission.

The Sargasso Sea Commission, established by the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea, was signed in Bermuda on March 11, 2014. Its formal role is to act as the Steward of this iconic high seas ecosystem and to keep its health, productivity, and resilience under review, as well as to develop safeguard measures for its conservation.

Dr Robbie Smith, Curator of the Bermuda Natural History Museum at BAMZ and adjunct faculty at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, will bring a wealth of ecological expertise to the Commission. Dr Smith has been involved in various projects locally and internationally relevant to the Sargasso Sea, including assessing the status of reef fish populations within protected areas in Bermuda, reef recovery in Florida, and deep ocean biological research in Bermuda with the Nekton Mission. Furthermore, Dr Smith is one of the few scientists to have studied the changing community of Sargassum in Bermuda.

Dr Robbie Smith was nominated by the Government of Bermuda and will serve in his personal capacity as a member of the Sargasso Sea Commission, taking over the reins from Dr Tammy Warren, who reached the end of her third and final term. The Sargasso Sea Commissioners and the Secretariat would like to take this opportunity to extend their warm thanks to Dr. Warren, who has shown incredible commitment to the Sargasso Sea Commission. Her expertise in fisheries has been a great asset to the Commission, particularly her unrelenting work with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, a regional fisheries management organisation with competence over the Sargasso Sea. Dr. Warren has been a consistent force for scientific accuracy and diplomacy on the Commission, and it is hoped that the Commission will be able to continue to leverage her expertise in the future.

Sen. Wilfred Moore has been re-appointed to serve his third term as Commissioner. Senator Moore represented the Province of Nova Scotia from 1996 until his retirement in 2017. Senator Moore is also a lawyer and Queen’s Counsel, and in 2015, introduced Bill S-203 (Ending the Captivity of Wales and Dolphins), which received Royal Assent in 2019. Sen. Moore has been a long-time supporter of creative and conservation-focused initiatives in Nova Scotia. He has been particularly engaged in the environmental impact of the American eel fishery in Canada, and his political expertise is a great asset to the Commission.

The Declaration requires that the Commissioners themselves be “distinguished scientists and other persons of international repute committed to the conservation of high seas ecosystems that would serve in their personal capacity.” The new Commissioners will work alongside current Commissioners, Professor Stephen de Mora, Mr. Mark Spalding, Mrs. Rochelle Newbold, Professor Murray Roberts, and Dr. Ana Colaço.

The Honourable Walter Roban, JP, MP, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, was happy to see the appointments made, saying, “I have no doubt that Dr. Smith will do a brilliant job, though Dr. Warren has left big shoes to fill!” The Minister recently attended the UN General Assembly in New York, where he was part of a side event hosted by the High Seas Alliance promoting the need for states to ratify the High Seas Treaty (also known as the BBNJ treaty, which stands for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction). “We are happy to say that Dr. Warren will continue to engage with the Sargasso Sea Commission from a Signatory standpoint,” he said.

The two appointments were warmly welcomed by Dr David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, who said: “We are very pleased to continue to work with Senator Moore, a political stalwart and passionate about the conservation of marine biodiversity, and we are delighted to appoint Dr Robbie Smith, whose expertise on Sargassum around Bermuda will be invaluable to the Commission.”

The Sargasso Sea Commission is a unique institution. It is appointed by the Government of Bermuda with the support of the Government Signatories of the Hamilton Declaration. Its formal role is to act as the Steward of this iconic high seas ecosystem and to keep its health, productivity, and resilience under review, as well as to develop safeguard measures for its conservation. It is also innovative as Commissioners are appointed primarily according to their scientific expertise and suitability and serve in their personal capacity rather than being representatives of the Signatory Governments.

As of September 2022, the ten Signatory Governments to the Hamilton Declaration are the Azores, The Bahamas, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Principality of Monaco, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Commission has worked for many years to support the conservation of the Sargasso Sea, and new opportunities for the conservation of this iconic high seas area were recently opened up with the finalisation of an internationally legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction – the BBNJ treaty.

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