Environment Minister Marc Bean, right, joins Head Fisheries Warden, John Edmunds, measuring lobsters at the Department of Environmental Protection, Coney Island. *Photo supplied
Environment Minister Marc Bean, right, joins Head Fisheries Warden, John Edmunds, measuring lobsters at the Department of Environmental Protection, Coney Island. *Photo supplied

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 18: Subsistence fishing and wind farms are among a series of initiatives being considered by government to ensure a greener future.

Marc Bean, Minister of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy, revealed he was also looking to relax rules governing the erection of solar panels on homes.

Mr Bean urged entrepreneurs in the private sector to back the renewable energy sector.

And he pledged to do more to support the island’s fishermen and farmers: “As the son of a farmer I understand the state of the agricultural industry today.

“We need to put more energy towards our agriculture and fisheries. Farmers and fishermen have been neglected for too long by successive governments.

“There are no harder workers on the island and government has to provide incentives.

“In my experience some farms have received grants from government to improve their production while others have been overlooked. That has to be changed.

“All farms deserve the support of government. There is nothing we can import that tastes better than what our farms can produce.”

Mr Bean said the solutions to the island’s declining agricultural industry lay not just in government grants but better marketing of Bermuda produce and youth education schemes.

Marketing

He added: “We need to improve the marketing side of things and get the product to the customer.

“There are not many young people interested in becoming farmers these days and it’s important for us to encourage a change in that mind set.

“As Minister I will do all I can to ensure that the government will do whatever it can to help farmers and fishermen.

“That can mean assisting with marketing and technical inputs. Teaching them how to best market their products is critical.

“It’s not all about grants – it’s about helping them help themselves from seeds to the shelf.”

The Environment Minister outlined plans to allow limited subsistence fishing within the reefs.

And he revealed that wind farms, easier access to solar energy for households, and a greater emphasis on liquid natural gas were all under consideration.

He said: “I am looking to improve the area of fishing licenses.

“Over the years a number of restrictions have been placed on fishermen.

“We would like to allow young and old people who love fishing and who have a boat, provided they are capable of being servants of the seas, to fish within the reefs platform inside 18-20 fathoms.

“That would allow a lot of people who are unemployed to go out and fish and feed their families.

“We are still 20 years off before renewables on a cost basis can replace petrol and fuel based energy. But I would like a greater emphasis on liquid natural gas as an alternative.

“When we return to Parliament I will be putting forward regulations that allow residential units to increase the space on their roof for solar panels without planning permission.

“It expedites the process but the private sector has to initiate these business models we just facilitate them.

“We will not pursue a path of government-financed green energy products.

“It has to be driven by the private sector if it is to be a success

“Wind farms have some potential. I am open to all ideas including wind farms. I like to put my trust in the private sector.”

A Ministry spokesperson added: “Sustainable fishing is just an option that is being considered. It is not a policy decision. This is not an open invitation for free-for-all fishing.

“The Government is aware that these are tough economic times and are exploring options regarding how to best assist people to be more self sufficient in ways that are sustainable.”

 

 

Still reviewing ‘Roban case’

Minister Marc Bean says he will not be rushed into a decision over the controversial planning applications that prompted Walter Roban to resign.

Mr Roban stood down in November after allowing planning appeals by fellow Ministers Zane DeSilva and Wayne Furbert just before he left the Environment Ministry.

The decisions prompted heavy criticism from environmentalists and opposition MPs.

Mr Bean told the Bermuda Sun he is still reviewing the files.

He said: “This has been an issue for me to deal with and I have been conscious of the public perception. I am still reviewing the files and will have completed that within the next couple of weeks.

“I know the Opposition is trying to press me to make a decision. But under no circumstances will I let the Opposition set my time table or tell me how to do my job.”

Mr Bean maintained that planning process works well.

But he admitted more could be done to inform islanders of the improvements that have taken place: “We can do a better job letting the public know what changes have been made. The planning process has been streamlined tremendously.

“And I continue to encourage my planning department to process applications promptly especially when there is a down turn and electricians, carpenters and builders need the work. We can not put a barrier in front of that type of development.”

 

Bid to cut phone charges

Reforming the telecommunications industry will promote competition and provide islanders with a better deal.

New legislation recently passed in the House of Assembly will allow consumers to get all their telecommunications services from one provider for the first time.

Minister Marc Bean says the changes are an important and necessary  improvement, and not another level of bureaucracy.

He told the Sun that the consumer had to be ‘king’ and government should not get too deeply involved and stifle innovation.

Mr Bean added: “ We pay some of the highest Internet and cellphone rates in the world.

“Businessmen should not have to dial an access number to call abroad – it should be instantaneous.

“People have been paying very high rates for telecommunication services for too long and they deserve lower rates and high productive services and that comes from competition.

He said: “In the past we have had a small market and telecommunications has been something of a cash cow. As a result the reform might cause concern to some of the players. But the intention is for there to be competition.”

 

Watch this space initiative

Making Bermuda a headquarters for international space and satellite development is a realistic prospect.

That’s the view of Minister Marc Bean who believes the island could benefit hugely from the development.

He says talks have already taken place with some of the big international players.

And he told the Sun that Bermuda could begin to reap rewards from the $50 billion industry within three years: “I am confident we can make this happen.

“This is a great opportunity to develop into a new industry. We have to leverage our existing infrastructure and hopefully attract the major players in a $50 billion industry to set up shop in Bermuda.

“It would bring additional revenue and jobs.”

Mr Bean said that the island’s location and tax-status made it the ideal location for the space industry: “International players like Russia, Japan, China, the EU and the U.S. have already been identified as potential stakeholders.

“Dialogue has already begun between us and some of these other countries and the reception has been very positive so far. We are in the process of forming a taskforce at the moment to further this project.”