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Research shows no significant amount of Illegal fishing in Bermuda’s 200-mile EEZ

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Ministry of the Environment has received a preliminary analysis of three years’ worth of Automatic Identification System (AIS) data that shows the probability of illegal fishing in our 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) appears to be low. For the first time, Bermuda has the advantage of a real picture of the kind of activity taking place in our EEZ.

Satellite Applications Catapult (Catapult), a UK based company, reviewed shipping activity data collected via satellite from 2013 to 2016. The data was collected inside Bermuda’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and a surrounding 100 nautical mile buffer zone, which constituted the Bermuda Area of Interest.  The study was funded by Aurum Fund Management Limited—a Bermuda based investment manager.

Catapult analysed Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals broadcast from commercial vessel over 300 gross tons as well as fishing and pleasure vessels. Vessel identification, distribution and speed were examined to determine likely fishing activities in an area. 

Preliminary results show that there are no strong seasonal or spatial trends in AIS activity that could potentially be associated with illegal fishing. A total of 12,700 unique vessels were identified during the three-year review period.

The Hon. Cole Simons, JP, MP, Minister of the Environment said, “The preliminary finding that there is no intense illegal fishing is welcome news. The Ministry is grateful for the support of Aurum Fund Management, who paid for this important study.  This analysis gives us a much deeper understanding of what is happening in our Exclusive Economic Zone. The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, guided by the Marine Resources Board, will now review the report and propose recommendations for the appropriate level of monitoring needed to confirm suspicious fishing activity within our EEZ going forward. Ultimately, we want to conserve Bermuda’s resources for Bermuda’s sustainable use.”

 “We at Aurum have a long history of supporting environmental conservation projects ever since our founding in Bermuda in 1994, and we’ve made marine stewardship a very high priority," said President Dudley Cottingham. “We believe that Bermuda is uniquely placed to play  a leading role in marine conservation. Preliminary results show that this is good news for Bermuda and the study provides an important benchmark that can be used when analysing future activity.”

If a foreign vessel is convicted of fishing illegally in Bermuda waters (anywhere in the EEZ), the Fisheries Act 1972 provides for a fine of up to $1 million and confiscation of the vessel and the fish.