Greenpeace outlines activities planned for Bermuda visit

Bermuda is to be used as a launch pad to call for the creation of an ocean sanctuary on the Sargasso Sea next month.

Representatives from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace will meet government officials, the Sargasso Sea Commission and other groups to examine ways in which the unique ecosystem can be protected.

One activist said it was vital for Bermudians to take the lead in the creation of an ocean sanctuary.

The move comes after the United Nations ratified the Global Ocean Treaty last September, which provided a tool to create sanctuaries on the high seas — the international waters that make up more than 60 per cent of the world’s ocean.

Part of the Sargasso Sea falls within Bermudian waters, but most of it lies in the high seas and is not protected. The Sargasso Sea has been earmarked as a priority area to be guarded under the treaty.

Noelle Young, who is involved in the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, will be advising Greenpeace during the team’s visit.

Ms Young said: “My goal is to foster intergenerational, co-operative dialogue focused on sustainable environmental stewardship and the preservation of our island and its culture for future generations.

“Greenpeace’s focus is on the international waters that surround us but are beyond Bermuda’s control.

“This is precisely why I feel it’s crucial for Bermudians to lead in designing an ocean sanctuary in the Sargasso Sea.”

Briony Venn, a senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “The Sargasso Sea contains a golden floating rainforest of Sargassum seaweed that supports a plethora of iconic but highly threatened species, including Bermuda’s national bird, the cahow.

“Sadly, it also faces many threats — from industrial fishing by international fleets to plastic pollution and climate change.

“We’re super excited to be spending two weeks in Bermuda joining forces with the community, scientists and leaders in calling for better protection.”

Greenpeace scientists will also carry out research and experiments while on the island. The organisation’s ship Arctic Sunrise will be based in Hamilton from May 5 until May 21.

It will make several forays into the Sargasso Sea outside Bermuda’s national waters to conduct scientific research and to document wildlife.

The Greenpeace team also hopes to meet and speak with Bermudians at a series of events to gather feedback and raise awareness of marine conservation.

Bermudian students will be invited on board the Arctic Sunrise on May 7, when they can learn about marine-conservation efforts.

A clean-up of Nonsuch Island in partnership with Keep Bermuda Beautiful is planned for May 11, and on May 18 the Arctic Sunrise will be open to the public, providing a glimpse of life on board one of Greenpeace’s iconic ships.

Bermudian ornithologists Erich Hetzel and Paul Watson will join the Arctic Sunrise to conduct a seabird survey on its transit into Bermuda from the Bahamas.

Greenpeace last visited Bermuda in 2019 with its ship Esperanza as part of a pole-to-pole expedition highlighting threats to the ocean.

On that trip, scientists studied the impact of plastics and microplastics on marine life in the Sargasso and the importance that drifting Sargassum seaweed has for the development of juvenile sea turtles.

They found concentrations of microplastics that were higher than those found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Royal Gazette