This diagram shows the proposed Coral Sea marine reserve in Australia. The area would span 500,000 square kilometres. *Image supplied
This diagram shows the proposed Coral Sea marine reserve in Australia. The area would span 500,000 square kilometres. *Image supplied

THURSDAY, JUNE 14: Bermuda recently joined the world in raising awareness about the serious threats facing our oceans and how we can help to tackle them. In the wake of World Oceans Day, the Bermuda Sun decided to focus on some of the themes and events taking place on the island.

The Bermuda Blue Halo Project to create a marine reserve around the island received a boost today as Australia announced its plans to create the world’s largest network of marine protected areas.

The move in Australia is hailed by the Pew Environment Group — the same group enlisted by the Bermuda Government to facilitate the Blue Halo Project in Bermuda’s waters.

Australia’s plans include a massive protected marine reserve in the Coral Sea, known as a national park zone, that would span 500,000 square kilometres and would be the world’s second largest fully protected no-take marine reserve.

This is part of a larger marine protected area in the Coral Sea made up of nearly one million square kilometres in area.

The Bermuda Halo Project proposes a similar course of events where initially a band of water — the size of which is to be determined via public consultation in September — would be protected as a marine reserve.

The hope would then be to extend the Halo into to a marine protected area that encompasses the majority, if not all, of the Sargasso Sea, a project also initiated by Bermuda Government through the Sargasso Sea Alliance. It would likely be the biggest stretch of water in the world to be protected.

Chris Flook of the Pew Environment Group, which is helping to set up the Blue Halo, told the Bermuda Sun: “This move in Australia is showing everybody that around the world we need to take ocean conservation seriously and that governments are starting to take it seriously.

“I think it is proof in the pudding that Bermuda is on the right tracks in trying to make the Blue Halo and to protect the Sargasso Sea. We are at a time now in the history of mankind and the planet where it needs to happen and it is refreshing to know that Government is taking it seriously.”

If the Bermuda Blue Halo Project does lead to the protection of the Sargasso Sea at large, Bermuda would be setting a precedent as it would be the first high-seas protected area in the world. All other marine protected areas are within territorial waters.

“Nobody owns the Sargasso Sea,” explained Mr Flook. “By making it a marine protected area, we would be setting the legal framework for international waters to be able to be protected.

“It is up to Bermudians to decide on the size of the Blue Halo marine reserve through consultation in September and whether we can have one of the largest marine reserves on the planet. That is the precursor for going for the first high-seas protected area in the world.”

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