FRIDAY, MARCH 16: Foreign-flagged boats which fish illegally in Bermudian waters face a crackdown, Environment Minister Marc Bean told MPs on Friday.

Mr Bean said current laws – which allow for a fine of up to $1 million for anyone fishing in Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone without a licence – will be reviewed.

He added that Government had looked at selling licences to fish in the 200-mile zone around the island.

But Mr Bean said: “However, after further examination and consultation with technical staff, the Government has decided that the option of licencing international fishing vessels is not in Bermuda’s best interest.

“Instead, the Government has opted to assess ways to enhance enforcement capabilities so that illegal fishers can be apprehended.”

Mr Bean said it was “a real possibility” that fishing boats were raiding Bermuda’s ocean space – and may have been doing so for years.

He added: “Illegal fishing poses a large threat to the health of the ocean’s fish stocks and other marine life and diminishes the effectiveness of management and conservation measures adopted by various regional fisheries management organisations to encourage sustainable harvest of these resources.

“Illegal fishing activities therefore also jeopardize the livelihoods of those who depend on the ocean’s resources, such as our local fishermen.”

Mr Bean said that Bermuda imports fish, although many of the same species bought from abroad are present in Bermudian waters.

He added: “The Department of Environmental Protection has developed terms and conditions for offshore fishing that adhere to current best practices aimed at minimising by-catch and the Government is confident that offshore fishing can be conducted by local fishermen in Bermuda’s waters in an environmentally-responsible manner.”