Announced at this week’s Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), the Blue Shield Programme is the latest project funded by the UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme, which protects over 4 million square kilometers of ocean around the Overseas Territories.

The Blue Shield Programme will identify and analyse activities that may impact the health and sustainability of Overseas Territories’ marine environments.

Illegal fishing and overfishing can cause significant damage to marine environments threatening the sustainability of fish populations, ecosystems, and the livelihoods of those who fish legally. Effective monitoring and surveillance can help reduce those risks.

The activities surveyed could include illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, commercial and recreational vessel activity, as well as shipping activity.

Through the establishment of compliance and enforcement frameworks, Blue Shield will assist the territories to ensure their waters are protected and sustainably managed. Where necessary, Blue Shield will also assist them to undertake enforcement action against non-compliance.

Overseas Territories will also be supported through specialist training for on-island staff to build local capacity, as well as providing access to innovative surveillance and enforcement techniques. These include:

  • Autonomous drone technology that can monitor vast areas of ocean for human activity and report its findings in real time.
  • Passive acoustic units, which once deployed underwater can monitor for the sounds of vessels which have their GPS positioning systems turned off.
  • Latest satellite surveillance data can be used to monitor maritime activity across entire Exclusive Economic Zones.

Lord Zac Goldsmith, Minister for the Environment, commented:

The new Blue Shield Programme will help UK Overseas Territories protect their hugely important marine environments against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and other damaging activities.

The Programme will provide training and will use emerging enforcement technologies such as drones and satellite surveillance.

I am absolutely delighted that Bermuda is the first Territory to join the Blue Shield, and I look forward to an excellent partnership.

Bermuda today announced that it would be the first Overseas Territory to join Blue Shield. Support provided by the Programme, to combat IUU fishing, and manage vessel activity and marine development projects, will underpin Bermuda’s existing protected areas management approach.

Honourable Walter Roban, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, Bermuda, commented:

I am very excited for Bermuda to be participating in the Blue Shield Programme and I thank the UK Government for their willingness to share vital technology that will help support the surveillance, protection and management of our marine environment.

Bermuda will continue to align itself with the highest standards needed for the protection of our oceans. Following on from our leading participation in the Sargasso Sea Commission, our Blue Shield involvement further strengthens Bermuda’s role as custodian of one of the world’s foremost marine ecosystems.

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