David Freestone (left), Sargasso Sea Alliance and Hon. Craig Cannonier, Premier of Bermuda © F. Rilla, UNEP/CMS
Bonn, 17 March 2014 - On 11 March Governments from across the world travelled to Bermuda to sign the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea. The UNEP/CMS Secretariat participated in this meeting and was declared a key partner. The March Meeting was spearheaded by the Government of Bermuda, which leads the Sargasso Sea Alliance.
The Declaration is a non-binding political statement that was signed by the governments of Bermuda, the Azores, the United Kingdom, the Unites States of America and Monaco who are interested in voluntarily collaborating on efforts to conserve the Sargasso Sea - a vast mid-Ocean gyre named for the frequent occurrences of a type of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum.
The meeting of the signatories discussed proposals that will be directed through existing international and regional organizations to define the required conservation measures for the Sargasso Sea. Representatives of 11 countries and territories from around the Sargasso Sea and Europe reaffirmed their support for the initiative, led by the Government of Bermuda, to collaborate over the conservation of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem
Premier Craig Cannonier signed the Hamilton Declaration, involving Bermuda along with other nations which have joined forces to conserve the environment of the Sargasso Sea ecosystem. Mr Cannonier said: “As you may know, Bermuda is the only land mass in the middle of the Sargasso Sea. We see it as our responsibility to lead the stewardship of this unique marine ecosystem and to request the support and assistance of the international community in this task.”
Other nations and territories represented were Sweden, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Netherlands, the Bahamas and South Africa. Representatives from the Secretariats of five international organizations: the Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS), the Oslo and Paris Commission, the International Seabed Authority, the inter-American Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Sea Turtles and International Union for the Conservation of Nature. As the representative for CMS Secretariat, Francisco Rilla gave a presentation on the extreme importance of the Sargasso Sea for migratory animals. This presentation was well received and led to CMS being announced as a key partner organization to the Hamilton Declaration.
A press release stated: “The Sargasso Sea Alliance (SSA), which was founded in 2010 and led by the Government of Bermuda, aims to seek protection measures for this unique high seas, open ocean ecosystem through the bodies which already have regulatory authority for areas beyond national jurisdiction — such as the International Seabed Authority, International Maritime Organization, the regional fisheries bodies and the Convention on Migratory Species. Partners, will select qualified individuals to serve on the Commission. Commissioners will be unpaid and will serve in a largely virtual setting.
The Governments represented will pledge support for the initiative to conserve the Sargasso Sea – the two million square mile ecosystem that surrounds the islands of Bermuda.
As signatories, Governments will also be consulted by the Government of Bermuda in the selection of Sargasso Sea Commissioners. The Commission has been composed of distinguished experts and different organizations of international repute committed to the conservation of high seas ecosystems. The Government of Bermuda, in consultation with the Signatories and Collaborating Partners, selected qualified individuals to serve on the Commission.
The Hamilton Declaration defines the Sargasso Sea ecosystem to include international waters or areas beyond national jurisdiction as well as Bermudian waters, but the Bermudian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will remain under the sovereignty and management authority of the Government of Bermuda.
This is the first time an international alliance has been formed to develop protection measures for an iconic high seas ecosystem, using existing international law frameworks.
Photo (David Freestone, Sargasso Sea Alliance (left) and Hon. Craig Cannonier Premier of Bermuda) courtesy of F. Rilla (UNEP/CMS). Map courtesy of the Sargasso Sea Alliance.
Last updated on 17 March 2014