Bermuda is a British overseas territory of nearly seventy thousand people in the North Atlantic Ocean. It consists of consists of a main island and about 138 coral islands and islets with ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes.
Bermuda is an archipelago consisting of seven main islands and many smaller islands and islets lying about 1,050 kilometers (650 mi.) east of North Carolina. The main islands--with hilly terrain and subtropical climate--are clustered together, connected by bridges, and are considered to be a geographic unit, referred to as the Island of Bermuda.
The United Kingdom is formally responsible for Bermuda's foreign and defense policy.
Located off the east coast of the United States, it is situated around 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi) northeast of Miami, Florida, and 1,350 kilometres (840 mi) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about 1,030 kilometres (640 mi) west-northwest.
Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by shipwrecked English colonists headed for Virginia.
Tourism to the island to escape North American winters first developed in Victorian times.
Tourism continues to be important to the island's economy, although international business has overtaken it in recent years. Bermuda has developed into a highly successful offshore financial center.
Although a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom was soundly defeated in 1995, the present government has reopened debate on the issue.
Some land was leased by the US Government from 1941 to 1995
Its major environmental issues include sustainable development.
Location: North America, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of South Carolina (US)
Geographic Coordinates: 32 20 N, 64 45 W
Area: Total: 53.3 sq km
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 80% (55% developed, 45% rural/open space) (2005)
Coastline: 103 km
Maritime Claims: Territorial sea to12 nautical miles and an exclusive fishing zone to 200 nautical miles
Natural Resources: limestone, pleasant climate fostering tourism.
Natural Hazards: Hurricanes (June to November)
Terrain: Low hills separated by fertile depressions. The highest point is Town Hill 76 m
Climate: Subtropical; mild, humid; gales, strong winds common in winter
Located about 1,700 kilometers off the South Carolina shoreline in the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda resembles a giant fish hook. The eye of the hook in the northeast is formed by Castle Harbour. The smaller enclosed body of water immediately below that is Harrington Sound. Under the water, coral reefs glow bright blue. The coral reflects light, coloring the shallow water blue and green. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Bermuda on March 4, 2004. Source: NASA. Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
Ecology and Biodiversity
Ecologically, Bermuda is classified under the Bermuda subtropical conifer forests ecoregion.
The Bermuda islands were once covered in dense forest of endemic tree species, with mangrove forests lining the coasts and inland saltwater ponds.
The islands are distinguished as having the northernmost mangrove forests in the Atlantic, which is made possible by the warm Gulf Stream current.
Bermuda’s isolation led to the evolution of many endemic species, including the endangered Bermuda petrel (Pterodroma cahow), the Bermuda skink (Eumeces longirostris), and many endemic invertebrates.
Restricted to this small archipelago, all endemic species are especially vulnerable to introduced predators and alien pests, and unfortunately the islands have seen the extinction of many species since the time of human settlement. Due to intense human activity, only very small areas of natural habitat remain on Bermuda today.
Though the islands have a well-managed and well-funded system of protected areas, this is one of the world’s most densely populated regions. Additionally, Bermuda is subject to intense pressure from a heavy tourist industry.
|The Bermuda Cedar is Critically Endangered. This juvenile Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana), is in the grave yard of St. Mark's Church, Bermuda. Source: Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil/Wikimedia Commons.|
|A view of Hamilton, Bermuda and beyond from the Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons.|
An estimated 95 percent of the surviving population of native Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) was destroyed between 1946 and 1951, following the accidental introduction of two coccoid scale insects. Only an estimated one percent of the original cedar forest survived the blight. Subsequent reforestation using a scale-resistant strain has returned the cedar to roughly ten percent of its former abundance, though these efforts have been hampered by the introduction of fast-growing casuarinas and other exotics into much of the cedar habitat.
Of the 116 hectares of inland peat marshes present in the ecoregion in 1900, only some 48 hectares remain, including the 19.6 hectare Devonshire Marsh, Pembroke Marsh, and Paget Marsh. Only small, scattered areas of mangroves remain, totaling 16.7 hectares in 1980. The largest mangrove forests are found at Hungry Bay Mangrove Swamp and Mangrove Lake.
Bermuda holds the distinction of having passed the first conservation laws in the New World, protecting the cahow (Pterodroma cahow) and other birds as early as 1616 and limiting the uses of native cedar as early as 1622.
A comprehensive and well-managed protected areas system currently exists, comprising 12 nature reserves that cover some 48 hectares, as well as 63 parks. The 25-acre Paget Marsh Nature Reserve is the best surviving example of native cedar, palmetto, and mangrove forests. The largest wildlife sanctuary is Spittal Pond, covering some 60 acres and home to at least 25 species of waterfowl. Other important protected areas include Devonshire and Pembroke Marshes, Warwick Pond, and the upland hills of Castle Harbour and Walsingham.
One important conservation success story has been the recovery of the endemic Bermuda petrel. Early visitors to Bermuda had been terrified by the cahow’s screeching cries, but they soon found the bird easy to catch and good to eat. Birds that were overlooked by humans were quickly consumed by introduced pigs, and as a result the cahow was thought to be extinct as early as the mid-1600s. But in 1951, 18 breeding pairs were rediscovered off the island’s East End, and subsequent recovery efforts have raised that number to 55 by 1998. The birds are currently protected in off-limits offshore sanctuaries.
Bermuda (the UK) is party to a number of relevant international environmental treaties, including: the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, CITES, and the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.
People and Society
Population: 69,080 (July 2012 est.)
Bermuda is home to immigrants from other countries. According to the 2000 census, 79% of the population is Bermuda-born and 21% is foreign-born. U.K. immigrants comprise 28% of the immigrant population; U.S., 20% (although the U.S. Consulate estimates that the figure is closer to 40%); Canada, 15%; Caribbean, 12%; and Portugal/Azores, 10%. A new census was conducted in May 2010 with results released in 2011.
Ethnic groups: black 54.8%, white 34.1%, mixed 6.4%, other races 4.3%, unspecified 0.4% (2000 census)
0-14 years: 18% (male 6,212/female 6,129)
15-64 years: 67% (male 22,701/female 23,293)
65 years and over: 15.1% (male 4,304/female 6,040) (2011 est.)
Population Growth Rate: 0.572% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 11.42 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 7.74 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 2.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 80.82 years
male: 77.6 years
female: 84.1 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 1.97 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: English (official), Portuguese
Literacy: 98% (2005 est.)
Urbanization: 100% of total population (2010)
Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez, who made no attempt to land because of the treacherous reef surrounding the uninhabited islands.
In 1609, a group of British colonists led by George Somers was shipwrecked and stranded on the islands for 10 months. Their reports aroused great interest about the islands in England, and in 1612 King James extended the Charter of the Virginia Company to include them. Later that year, about 60 British colonists arrived and founded the town of St. George, the oldest continuously inhabited English-speaking settlement in the Western Hemisphere. When representative government was introduced to Bermuda in 1620, it became a self-governing colony.
Due to the islands' isolation, for many years Bermuda remained an outpost of 17th-century British civilization, with an economy based on the use of the islands' endemic cedar trees for shipbuilding and the salt trade. Hamilton, a centrally located port founded in 1790, became the seat of government in 1815.
Slaves from Africa were brought to Bermuda soon after the colony was established. The slave trade was outlawed in Bermuda in 1807, and all slaves were freed in 1834. Today, about 60% of Bermudians are of African descent.
During World War II, Bermuda became a significant U.S. military site because of its location in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1941, the U.S. signed a lend-lease agreement with the U.K. giving the British surplus U.S. Navy destroyers in exchange for 99-year lease rights to establish naval and air bases in Bermuda. The bases consisted of 5.8 square kilometers (2.25 sq. mi.) of land largely reclaimed from the sea. The U.S. Naval Air Station was on St. David's Island, while the U.S. Naval Air Station Annex was at the western end of the island in the Great Sound.
Both bases were closed in September 1995 (as were British and Canadian bases), and the lands were formally returned to the Government of Bermuda in 2002.
Bermuda's first election held on the basis of universal adult suffrage and equal voting took place on May 22, 1968; previously, the franchise had been limited to property owners.
The establishment of a formal constitution in 1968 bolstered internal self-government; debate about independence ensued, although a 1995 independence referendum was defeated. The government re-opened the independence debate in 2004.
Bermuda is the oldest self-governing overseas territory in the British Commonwealth. Its 1968 constitution provides the island with formal responsibility for internal self-government, while the British Government retains responsibility for external affairs, defense, and security. The Bermudian Government is consulted on any international negotiations affecting the territory. Bermuda participates, through British delegations, in the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies.
Unsatisfied aspirations, particularly among young blacks, led to a brief civil disturbance in December 1977, following the execution of two men found guilty of the 1972-73 assassinations of Governor Richard Sharples and four others. In the 1980s, the increasing prosperity of Bermudians, combined with limited land area, caused a housing shortage. Despite a general strike in 1981 and economic downturn in the early 1980s, Bermuda's social, political, and economic institutions remained stable.
Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented in Bermuda by a governor, whom she appoints. Internally, Bermuda has a parliamentary system of government.
The premier is head of government and leader of the majority party in the House of Assembly. The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by the premier from among members of the House of Assembly and the Senate.
The 36-member House is elected from 36 electoral districts (one representative from each district) for a term not to exceed 5 years. The Senate, or reviewing house, serves concurrently with the House and has 11 members--five appointed by the governor in consultation with the premier, three by the opposition leader, and three at the governor's discretion.
The judiciary is composed of a chief justice and associate judges appointed by the governor.
For administrative purposes, Bermuda is divided into nine parishes, with Hamilton and St. George considered autonomous corporations.
Government Type: Parliamentary; self-governing territory
Capital: Hamilton - 12,000 (2009)
Administrative Divisions: 9 parishes and 2 municipalities*; Devonshire, Hamilton, Hamilton*, Paget, Pembroke, Saint George*, Saint George's, Sandys, Smith's, Southampton, Warwick
Legal System: English law. Bermuda has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; and is a non-party state to the International Criminal Court (ICCt).
Independence and Citizenship:
Currently citizens of Britain's overseas territories, including Bermuda, are entitled to British citizenship. The British Overseas Territories Bill, passed in February 2002, provides automatic acquisition of British citizenship, including automatic transmission of citizenship to their children; the right of abode, including the right to live and work in the U.K. and the European Union (EU); the right not to exercise or to formally renounce British citizenship; and the right to use the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) channel at the airport. The U.K. has indicated that citizens of an independent Bermuda would no longer be automatically entitled to British citizenship and the EU benefits that accrue to it by this method.
There are no conditions attached to the grant of British citizenship to the overseas territories, a fact of particular importance to Bermuda where the issue of independence is being debated. A 1999 U.K. government White Paper states: "The new grant of British citizenship will not be a barrier, therefore, to those Overseas Territories choosing to become independent of Britain. Our Overseas Territories are British for as long as they wish to remain British. Britain has willingly granted independence where it has been requested; and we will continue to do so where this is an option."
Bermuda has enjoyed steady economic prosperity since the end of World War II, although the island has experienced a recession since 2007, paralleling the global economic recession. Bermuda enjoys the fourth highest per capita income in the world, more than 50% higher than that of the US. The average cost of a house by the mid-2000s exceeded $1,000,000.
Its economy is based primarily upon international business and tourism. In 2009, international business and tourism accounted for 74% of the total balance of payments current account receipts of foreign exchange. Generally, the role of international business in the economy has been expanding, whereas that of tourism has been contracting. Bermuda's tourism industry - which derives over 80% of its visitors from the US - continues to struggle but remains the island's number two industry.
Bermuda is an important regional and global offshore financial center with a robust financial regulatory system. The Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) is designated as the supervisory and enforcement authority. The government cooperates with the United States and the international community to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing and continues to update its legislation and procedures in conformance with international standards. It is the third-largest reinsurance center in the world and the second-largest captive insurance domicile, with firms based in the jurisdiction writing significant volumes of business in the U.S. and U.K.
In 2010, 15,078 international companies were registered in Bermuda, many U.S.-owned. They are an important source of foreign exchange for the island, and spent an estimated $2 billion in Bermuda in 2009. The importance of international business is reflected in its share of GDP. This sector provided $1.5 billion in total output (current market prices), representing 26.1% of total GDP, or a 3.7% decrease compared to 2008. International business is no longer the island's largest employer, with 4,287 jobs in 2010, down from 4,431 in 2009. Provisional estimates for 2010 state that there were 4,658 jobs in wholesale and retail and repair services and 4,349 jobs in hotels and restaurants.
A number of reinsurance companies relocated to the island following the 11 September 2001 attacks and again after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 contributing to the expansion of an already robust international business sector.
Historically important for employment and tax revenue, Bermuda's tourism industry had been experiencing difficulties for many years. The travel industry, particularly the airline sector, has been declining for decades. However, a total of 585,266 visitors arrived in 2010, up from 559,048 visitors in 2009. This was a direct result of an active year on the cruise and yacht front. Hotel occupancy rates averaged 54.0% in 2010, which represents an increase of 5.7% from 2009. Visitors contributed an estimated $383.9 million to the economy in 2010, up from $331.3 million in 2009. This compares to $475 million in 1996.
Bermuda has little in the way of exports or manufacturing; almost all manufactured goods and foodstuffs must be imported. The value of imports rose from $551 million in 1994 to $1.051 billion in 2009. The U.S. is Bermuda's primary trading partner, with $663 million in U.S. imports in 2009. The U.K., Canada, and the Caribbean countries also are important trading partners. Exports from Bermuda, including imports into the small free port that are subsequently re-exported, decreased from $35 million in 1993 to $28 million in 2009.
Duty on imports is a major source of revenue for the Government of Bermuda. In 2009-2010, the government obtained $225.4 million, or 24% of its revenue base, from import duties. Heavy importation duties are reflected in retail prices. Even though import duties are high, wages have kept up for the most part with the cost of living. Poverty was until very recently practically nonexistent; however, in 2007, 11% of the population was below the low-income threshold of $27,046 per year. Although Bermuda imposes no income, sales, or profit taxes, it does levy a real estate tax.
In February 1970, Bermuda converted from its former currency, the pound, to a decimal currency of dollars pegged to the U.S. dollar.
Bermuda's industrial sector is largely focused on construction and agriculture is limited, with only 20% of the land being arable.
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $4.5 billion (2004 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $69,900 (2004 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 90.8% (2011 est.)
Agricultural products: Bananas, vegetables, citrus, flowers; dairy products, honey
Industries: international business, tourism, light manufacturing
Currency: Bermudian dollars (BMD)