A trade publication for the travel industry – Travel Weekly – believes that 25 percent of international tourism travel involves eco-tourism. It says spending by eco-tourists is in the region of $470 billion a year.

I'll come back to the economics of the scheme in another post. I want to look at a political timeline of events first because there are too many loose ends.

On February 27, 2012, then Shadow Environment Minister Michael Fahy was quoted as saying: "The benefits [of the Blue Halo] will be enormous including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven. We support this initiative wholeheartedly."

On page 11 of the OBA's 2012 General Election platform [PDF here], the OBA's platform was to: "Support the Blue Halo initiative".

On March 21, 2013, the OBA Government announced a scheme to look at the viability of the Island's 'blue economy'. Reportedly it was a partnership between the University of California, the Waitt Foundation and Bermuda Institute for Ocean Science.

A Nearshore Marine Spatial Planning Coordinator was to be appointed [I understand that has happened and the person has been in place at the BIOS for some time] to look at options ranging from conservation to commercial and recreational fishing, diving, off-shore energy and boating in waters to a depth of 200m around the Island.

According to reports at the time, a "steering committee made up of representatives of the two departments will lead the public policy process, with representatives from other relevant Government agencies".

On August 14, 2013, Government said before any decision was taken on the Blue Halo, the people would be consulted.

A Government spokeswoman was quoted as saying: "Prior to making a decision on whether or not such a zone will be created, the Government will undertake a public education and public consultation exercise in order to determine the views of the Bermudian people.

"Upon consideration of those views, the Government will then determine if such a Marine Protected Area will be created, and if so, the location, size, shape and the nature of protections to be associated with it."

Consultation was duly launched [PDF here] and the deadline for submissions was October 31, 2013 – almost exactly one year ago.

The on June 6, 2014, Premier Michael Dunkley was quoted as saying: "Based on major takeaways from the first phase of public consultation, it is clear that a full economic analysis of the current options be undertaken and it is our intention to ensure that an independent feasibility study to assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within our EEZ be carried out.

"This assessment will project the future economic potential that our EEZ represents and will provide the Government and people of Bermuda with the information required for an advanced level of consultation towards an informed decision on the future of this vast national asset."

On the same day he was also quoted as saying: "However, given the level of interest and participation in this consultation, the full report on the outcome of the consultation will be made available to the public in the coming weeks."

So where am I going?

It is just over a year since the public consultation closed and there has been no report. It is about five months since the Premier said the results of the consultation would be released "in the coming weeks'.

It is about 18 months since the University of California, the Waitt Foundation and BIOS partnership was announced and despite there being a steering committee, as far as I can see there have been no public updates.

The OBA has gone from this: "The benefits [of the Blue Halo] will be enormous including the ability to market Bermuda as an environmental haven. We support this initiative wholeheartedly,' and "Upon consideration of those [consultation] views, the Government will then determine if such a Marine Protected Area will be created, and if so, the location, size, shape and the nature of protections to be associated with it."

To, "it is our intention to ensure that an independent feasibility study to assess, forecast and quantify the potential economic activity within our EEZ be carried out." As far as I can see, that was the last mention of the proposed study.

Bermuda is desperate for new revenue, a so-called 'third pillar'. I understand the need to move carefully, to make sure all options are considered, however there have been mixed messages, a lack of transparency and, it seems to me, a lack of urgency.

***

- Jeremy Deacon runs public relations firm Deep Blue Communications, as well as writing his blog Bermuda Blue.'

Original article

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