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Dominican Republic Signs the Hamilton Declaration

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Ministry of Home Affairs is delighted to report that the Dominican Republic is the latest signatory of the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea.

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 iconic high seas ecosystem in the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.

The Declaration was signed on behalf of the Dominican Republic by Mr. Francisco Dominguez Brito, the Dominican Republic's Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, on April 6.

The Hamilton Declaration, as the name implies, was originally signed 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 in 2017.

The Minister of Home Affairs the Hon. Walton Brown JP MP said, “I am delighted to have the Dominican Republic join our Sargasso Sea family. We now have 10 Government Signatories and I am sure this will further advance the impact of this important and ground-breaking initiative.”

The Sargasso Sea is a unique ecosystem — nearly 5 million square kilometres in area — which is based on species of seaweed, Sargassum. 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 of tuna, wahoo and dolphinfish. It is the only place in the world where the European eel and the American eel spawn. They then migrate 3,000 miles back to the continents of Europe and North America. Both eel species are classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List. The European eel is critically endangered. Young eels – '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". The Sargasso Sea Commission is appointed by the Government of Bermuda after consultation with the other signatories. It is composed of distinguished scientists and other persons of international repute committed to the conservation of high seas ecosystems that would serve in their personal capacity.

Dr 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.”