Most of the salt ponds ("ponds") in
the Virgin Islands were bays that, over
time, have been closed in by reef or
mangrove growth across the bay's mouth.
Sand, sediment, and rubble also
accumulate on the developing berm area
during storms and aid in separating the
pond from the bay.
The water in the pond is seawater
that remained inside the newly made
berm. Once the pond is separated from the
bay, salt water can still seep into the pond
at high tides or it can wash over the berm
Fresh water from rain and storm
water runoff also enters salt ponds. These
fresh water inputs lower the pond's
salinity. These changes in salinity can be
very large and can occur very rapidly.
During dry periods, the pond's
water evaporates quickly, increasing the
salinity. Sometimes, salt ponds can dry up
completely leaving crystallized salt
Salt ponds are constantly exposed
to the sun. This combined with frequent
changes in water level caused by sudden
storm water inputs or evaporation can lead
to drastic changes in water temperature in
LIFE IN A SALT POND
Very few organisms are able to
withstand the drastic fluctuations in
temperature and salinity that salt pond
experience. These unstable conditions
make salt ponds "unfriendly"
environments to live in. Yet, many crabs,
insect larvae, brine shrimp, and some
halophilic (salt-loving) plants can be
found living in salt ponds. Brine shrimp
and algae give ponds a variety of different
colors, including brownish-pink, orange,
green, and red.
Many wading birds (herons, stilts
sandpipers and sometimes, flamingoes) and
waterfowl (ducks, teals, coots) feed on
organisms in the pond. Other birds kingbirdss,
martins, and swallow) feed on insects that fly
over the ponds, and many nest or roost in the
surrounding vegetation. Insect and fish-eating
bats also frequent ponds in the evening.
A pond that has been recently opened to
the sea by a storm may contain fish (sennet,
barracuda, tarpon, mullet, snook, etc.) these are
often fed upon by birds such as kingfishers,
herons, and ospreys.
Animal and plant life associated with
ponds are not well studied. The complex
ecology of a pond is only partly understood. We
do know that a pond is a very dynamic system
with constant modifications in the natural
community in response to continuous changes in
salinity, temperature, turbidity, and levels of
oxygen and hydrogen sulfide (from decaying
organic matter) in the pond.
ARE SALT PONDS IMPORTANT?
YES! Salt ponds serve a number of very
useful purposes that benefit the marine
environment and us.
1. Ponds are natural settling basins, filtering
upland storm water runoff and the sediments and
pollutants it carries. This protects marine
habitats (seagrass beds and coral reefs from silt)
and keeps the water in adjacent bays clean.
2. Ponds provide feeding places for wading
birds, fish-eating bats and insects. The
vegetation around the pond also provides nesting
and roosting places for many birds and other
3. Ponds are excellent areas for bird watching,
environmental research, and education.
4. Ponds have many traditional uses, including:
gathering salt for cooking; "soaking" for
medicinal purposes; and, gathering brine shrimp
as tropical fish food.
THREATS TO SALT PONDS
Salt ponds in the Virgin Islands are an
endangered habitat. Numerous activities have
eliminated them or reduced their values as
sediment traps or wildlife habitat. Threats
* development of upland areas without proper
use of sediment control measures. This leads to
rapid "filling in" and loss of a pond.
* opening of salt ponds for marina basins. When
this is done all runoff into the pond goes directly
to the sea.
* pollutants such as waste oil, septic discharge
and household and commercial chemicals
entering the pond in storm water runoff from
upland sources. This results in the death of pond
animals and plants and a disruption of the
ecology of the pond.
If we overload our salt ponds with too
much sediment or pollution, they will eventually
stop working for us. Without functioning salt
ponds, many of our marine resources such as
reefs, sea grasses, fish, and birds will be in
PROTECT OUR SALT PONDS
* Never dispose of chemicals by pouring them
down the toilet or sink or on the ground.
* You should keep your car tuned up and dispose
of waste oil at designated sites.
* Persons should discourage the construction of
manmade structures on or near (>100')
* Promote and use responsible development and
construction practices, including erosion control,
spot-clearing (clear only what you need to),
immediate revegetation of your site, and doing
major work only during the dry season to avoid
* Report violations to DPNR's Division of
Environmental Enforcement. 340 773 5774 or
340 774 3320 ext. 5106
Department of Planning and
Division of Fish and Wildlife
6291 Estate Nazareth 101
St. Thomas, V.I. 00802
340 775 6762
45 Mars Hill,
St. Croix, V.I. 00840
340 772 1955
SALTPONDS OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
0 1 2 18 IV
1. Frank Bay 6. Privateer Bay 11. Popilleau Bay 16. Salt Pond 21. Little Lameshur 26. Chocolate Hole
2. Leinster Bay 7. Southside Pond 12. Fortsberg 17. Drunk Bay 22. Europa Bay
3. Brown Bay 8. Elk Bay 13. Harbor Point 18. Kiddel Bay 23. Reef Bay
4. Mt. Pleasant 9. Turner Bay 14. Lagoon Point 19. Gootpan Bay 24. Fish Bay
5. Newfound Bay 10. Borck Creek 15. Friis Bay 20. Great Lameshur 25. Hart Bay
0 1 2
1. Salt Cay 6. Red Hook Pond 11. Great St. James 16. Coculus Bay 21. Sprat Point 26. Preserverance
2. Mandahl Bay 7. Cabrita Point 12. Little St. James 17. Ltl Coculus Bay 22. Limestone Bay 27. Fortuna Bay
3. Thatch Cay 8.Great Bay 13. Benner Bay 18. Frenchman Bay 23. Flamingo Bay
4. Footer Point 9. Water Point 14. Bovoni Bay 19. Hassel Island 24. Providence Bay
5. Smith Bay Pond 10. Christmas Cove 15. Bolongo Bay 20. East Gregerie 25. Saba Island
St. Croix 7 6
13 12 10 0 1 2 3
1. Rust Op twist 5. Buck Island 9. Billy French Ponds 13. West End Saltpond
2. Altona Lagoon 6. Robin Bay 10. Krause Lagoon
3. Southgate Pond 7. Great Pond 11. Manning Bay
4. Coakley Bay 8. Half Penny Bay 12. Long Point
These maps do not show the location of every natural pond in the U.S.V.I.
The ponds shown are the largest and most important, for wildlife and sediment reduction.