• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Executive summary
 Table of Contents
 Preface
 Acknowledgement
 Introduction and purpose
 Approach
 Overview of habitats, ecosystems,...
 Overview of fisheries and marine...
 Identification of priority issues...
 Conservation strategies
 Plan implementation
 Plans to monitor implementation...
 Decadal review and update of this...
 Marine species overview
 U.S. Virgin Islands marine habitat...
 Summary of marine resources and...
 Draft plan review comments
 Public announcements and public...






Title: United States Virgin Islands Marine Resources and Fisheries strategic and comprehensive conservation plan
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA01300948/00001
 Material Information
Title: United States Virgin Islands Marine Resources and Fisheries strategic and comprehensive conservation plan
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, U.S. Virgin Islands
Publisher: Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, U.S. Virgin Islands
Place of Publication: St. Croix, USVI
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA01300948
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
    Executive summary
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
    Preface
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
    Acknowledgement
        Page xii
    Introduction and purpose
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
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        Page 15
        Page 16
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        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Approach
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
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    Overview of habitats, ecosystems, and species
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    Overview of fisheries and marine recreation
        Page 132
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    Identification of priority issues and species of concern
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    Conservation strategies
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    Plan implementation
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    Plans to monitor implementation of conservation strategies
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    Decadal review and update of this plan
        Page 266
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    Marine species overview
        Page 268
        Page 269
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    U.S. Virgin Islands marine habitat maps
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    Summary of marine resources and fisheries regulations
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    Draft plan review comments
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    Public announcements and public meetings
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Full Text

U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005













UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS


MARINE RESOURCES AND FISHERIES


STRATEGIC AND COMPREHENSIVE


CONSERVATION PLAN








Division of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Planning and Natural Resources
U.S. Virgin Islands


December 2005






U.S. Virgin Islands i
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


The US Virgin Islands (USVI) is a territory of the United States. It lies in the northeast
Caribbean and consists of four major islands, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, and Water Island,
and about 50 cays. The USVI is endowed with many natural resources and contains examples of
tropical ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows, salt ponds, and mangrove forests.
These habitats provide food and shelter for a large variety of resident marine and terrestrial life.
In addition, a variety of fish and wildlife migrate through the USVI annually. These natural
resources are under pressure from a variety of user groups. The marine waters are heavily fished
by both recreational and commercial fishermen. Annually, thousands of tourists visit the USVI
to go snorkeling and diving. Pollution is also a primary impact on the marine resources. In
addition, economic development such as home and hotel construction continues to infringe on
coastal environments.

There have been numerous plans completed, at least to draft stage, relating to some aspect of the
fisheries and marine resources in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Chapter 1). Plans have been written
regarding management of specific areas, topics and issues, and species related to the fisheries
and marine resources of the USVI. Some of these plans have been successfully implemented, or
at least partially implemented.

To date, there has been no comprehensive plan for the management of fish and wildlife resources
in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Therefore, there is a need to compile such a plan. This plan also
provides a forum for public input regarding the priority issues affecting USVI marine resources
and fisheries, which is critical to identifying the priority issues.

In July 2004, USFWS provided guidelines for writing this plan in the form of eight specific
elements, and this plan was developed accordingly (Chapter II). These were the basis for the
format and approach used to making this plan (Chapter II).

In the USVI there are many types of marine habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, algal
plains, mangroves, and salt ponds (Chapter III). These are discussed separately in this document,
but they are not separate and independent entities. These distinctive habitats are linked and
interact with each other in a variety of ways. In addition to nutrient flows, many marine species
have specific habitat requirements for each portion of their life cycle. A detailed overview of
many USVI marine species was recently completed by the Caribbean Fisheries Management
Council in their 2004 draft "Sustainable Fisheries Act Amendment". This species overview is
attached as Appendix 1.

In addition to marine species and habitats, there are various sources of anthropogenic impacts to
the marine environment. These include commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, marine
recreation, development, and pollution. An overview is provided for commercial and






U.S. Virgin Islands ii
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

marine resources and fisheries included: (1) pollution, (2) lack of enforcement, (3) gillnets, (4)
overfishing, (5) traps, (6) longlines, (7) habitat degradation, and (8) lack of moorings. Species of
concern were also identified (Chapter V). To focus on species with conservation concerns,
species under Territorial, Federal, and National Park Service management were identified.
Various external agencies such as IUCN, FishBase, NOAA Fisheries, and CFMC have also
identified species of concern. These were added to the list for consideration.

Strategies for addressing priority issues and species of concern were then developed (Chapter
VI). User group and public input, from various opinion surveys, were used to guide this process.
Common user group and public suggestions for addressing USVI marine resource problems
include (1) improve enforcement, (2) more education, (3) pollution control, (4) deploy more
FADs, (5) develop more artificial reefs, and (6) develop/improve boat and public access. These
suggestions were the basis for the development of strategies to address priority issues and species
of concern.

Plans for implementing priority issue strategies and for addressing species of concern were
developed (Chapter VII). The primary (lead) and cooperating (supporting) agencies for each
strategy were identified. Detailed planning for implementing of each conservation strategy is left
to the primary agency. In cases where DFW is the primary agency, more specific plans to
implement conservation strategies are indicated. These implementation activities, especially
those in which DFW is the primary agency, are subject to the availability of funds and resources.
As funding opportunities for stated strategies come up, DFW will pursue funding to implement
these conservation strategies.

Plans for monitoring implementation strategies were then developed (Chapter VIII). Detailed
planning for monitoring the implementation of strategies is left to the primary agency. In cases
where DFW is the primary agency, more detailed plans for monitoring of implementation of
strategies is provided. These monitoring activities, especially those in which DFW is the
primary agency, are subject to the availability of funds and resources. Coupled with monitoring,
is the need for assessing results, new information, or changing environments so that appropriate
adjustments can be made to the conservation strategy. These feedback loops are critical to
ensure that the conservation strategies are appropriate or are adjusted as necessary to ensure that
objectives are addressed. This is essential for adaptive management of conservation strategies.

Since development of this plan was a rather lengthy process (2 to 3 years), a decadal review and
update of this plan is proposed (Chapter IX). Procedures for the decadal review of this plan are
basically the same as for formulating this plan (see Chapter II). A review should also be
conducted to determine the extent to which conservation strategies identified in this plan have
been implemented or resolved, and have had the desired effect on the marine resources, in 10
years. Review and update of this plan in 10 years is contingent on the availability of funds and
resources.






U.S. Virgin Islands iv
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005


TABLE OF CONTENTS Page No.
Executive Summary ii
Table of Contents iv
Figures vi
Tables vii
Preface viii
List of Acronyms x
Acknowledgements xii
I INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE 1
1. Setting 1
2. Need for Conservation and Strategic Plans 4
3. Previous USVI Fisheries and Marine Resources Related Plans 5
4. Benefits of a USVI Strategic and Comprehensive Marine Resources
and Fisheries Plan 8
5. Objective 9
6. References Cited 9

II APPROACH 22
1. USFWS Eight Essential Elements 22
2. Approach to Making This Plan 23
3. References Cited 31

III OVERVIEW OF HABITATS, ECOSYSTEMS, AND SPECIES 33
1. Physical Setting 33
2. Coral Reefs 36
3. Mangroves 71
4. Seagrass Beds 88
5. Salt Ponds 96
6. Algal Plains 100
7. Marine Species 102
8. References Cited 103

IV OVERVIEW OF FISHERIES AND MARINE RECREATION 132
1. Commercial Fisheries 132
2. Recreational Fisheries 147
3. Marine Recreation 154
4. References Cited 165

V IDENTIFICATION OF PRIORITY ISSUES AND SPECIES OF CONCERN 174
1. Identification of Priority Issues 173
2. Identification of Species of Conservation Concern 178
3. References Cited 189






U.S. Virgin Islands v
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

Table of Contents Page No
(continued)
VI CONSERVATION STRATEGIES 191
1. Strategies for Addressing Priority Issues 191
2. Strategies for Addressing Species of Greatest Conservation Concern 211
3. References Cited 217

VII PLAN IMPLEMENTATION 225
1. Implementation of Priority Issue Conservation Strategies 225
2. Implementation of Species of Concern Conservation Strategies 225

VIII PLANS TO MONITOR IMPLEMENTATION OF CONSERVATION
STRATEGIES 244
1. Plans to Monitor Priority Issue Strategies 244
2. Plans to Monitor Species of Concern Strategies 244
3. Adjusting and Adaptive Conservation Strategies Based on Feed Back 262
from Monitoring
4. References Cited 264

IX DECADAL REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THIS PLAN 262
1. Review Period 262
2. Decadal Review Procedures 262
3. Review the Success in Implementation of this Plan 263
4. Resources for Conducting the Review 263

APPENDICES
1. MARINE SPECIES OVERVIEW 268
A. Reef Fish 268
B. Invertebrates 373
C. Other Species 386
D. References 419

2 U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS MARINE HABITAT MAPS 443
A. Marine Habitat Maps of St. Thomas/St. John 443
B. Marine Habitat Maps of St. Croix 469

3 SUMMARY OF MARINE RESOURCE AND FISHERIES REGULATIONS 500
A. Territorial Regulations 500
B. Federal Regulations 506

4 DRAFT PLAN REVIEW COMMENTS 513

5 PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS AND PUBLIC MEETINGS 540






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

Figures


Figure

Figure I-1

Figure I-2

Figure I-3

Figure I-4

Figure III-1

Figure IV-1

Figure IV-2


Figure IV-3

Figure VI-1

Figure VI-2

Figure VI-3

Figure VI-4

Figure VIII- 1

APPENDICES
Figures 2A
(Tiles 1-25)
Figures 2B
(Tiles 1-30)
Figure A3-1

Figure A3-2

Figure A3-3

Figure A3-4


Description

Map showing the location of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

Map of the Virgin Islands.

Regional APC map for St. Thomas and St. John.

Regional APC map for St. Croix.

Map of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

USVI total number of licensed commercial fishers per year for
1973/74 to 2002/03 fishing years.
St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix number of licensed commercial
fishers per year for 1984/85 to 2002/2003 fishing years with linear
trend lines.
Scatter plot of average St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix fish prices
per pound for 1974 to 2003 fishing years.
Current FAD deployment off St. Thomas and St. John.

Current FAD deployment off St. Croix.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) for St. Thomas and St. John, and
territorial limit.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) for St. Croix, and territorial limit.

Conceptual Diagram of Adaptive Management


Marine Habitat Maps of St. Thomas/St. John

Marine Habitat Maps of St. Croix

Southeast St. Thomas Marine Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuaries

Hind Bank Marine Conservation District, St. Thomas, USVI

Red Hind Closure, St. Croix, USVI

St. Croix Mutton Snapper Spawning Area Closure, March 1 to June
30


Page

1

1

5

6

34

140

141


142

199

200

203

204

263


443-468

469-499

505

510

511

512






U.S. Virgin Islands vii
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Tables

Table Description Page
Table P-l Chapters/sections pertaining to strategic and/or comprehensive plan viii-ix
Table II-1 Chapters and sections that address the USFWS eight essential 24-27
elements.
Table IV-1 Number and percentage of commercial fishers targeting various 134
categories of fish, molluscs, and crustaceans in the U.S. Virgin
Islands.
Table IV-2 Comparison of the number of commercial fishers in the U.S. Virgin 135
Islands between 1930 and 2004.
Table IV-3 U.S. Virgin Islands commercial fisher's opinions on whether 136
fishing is better, the same, or worse than 10 years ago.
Table IV-4 Reasons fishers gave for fishing being worse in St. Croix District. 137-138
Table IV-5 Reasons fishers gave for fishing being worse in St. Thomas/St. John 139
District.
Table IV-6 Summary of the most common responses identifying problems with 144
the fisheries in the USVI.
Table V-1 Summary of the most common responses identifying problems with 176
the fisheries in the USVI.
Table V-2 Summary of the most common responses identifying problems with 177
the marine resources in the USVI.
Table V-3 Comprehensive species of concern list for the U.S. Virgin Islands. 179-184
Table V-4 List of species of possible concern that may occur in the USVI that 187-188
have been identified by various sources.
Table V-5 List of species of greatest concern. 189
Table VI-1 Summary of the most common responses identifying solutions to 193
USVI fisheries problems.
Table VI-2 Summary of the most common responses identifying solutions to 194
USVI marine resource problems.
Table VI-3 List of species of greatest concern. 211-212
Table VII-1 Priority issue conservation strategies, primary agency, cooperating 226-238
agency, and plans for implementing conservation strategies.
Table VII-2 Species of greatest concern conservation strategies, primary agency, 239-243
cooperating agency, and plans for implementing conservation
strategies.
Table VIII-1 Priority issue conservation strategies, primary agency, and plans for 245-256
monitoring the implementation of conservation strategies.
Table VIII-2 Species of greatest concern, primary agency, and plans for 257-261
monitoring the implementation of conservation strategies.
Table A3-1 Summary of USVI Territorial Fishing Regulations 500-504
Table A3-2 Summary of Federal Fishing Regulations Applicable to the USVI 506-509






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005


5 Objective X X
II. FORMAT AND APPROACH
1 USFWS Eight Elements X X
2 Approach to Making this Plan X X
III. OVERVIEW OF HABITATS, ECOSYSTEMS, AND SPECIES
1 Physical Setting X
2 Coral Reefs X
3 Mangroves X
4 Seagrass Beds X
5 Salt Ponds X
6 Algal Plains X
7 Marine Species X
IV. OVERVIEW OF FISHERIES AND MARINE SPECIES
1 Commercial Fisheries X
2 Recreational Fisheries X
3 Marine Recreation X X
V. IDENTIFY PRIORITY ISSUES AND SPECIES
1 Identification of Priority Issues X X
2 Identification of Species of Greatest X X
Conservation Concern






U.S. Virgin Islands ix
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

Table P-1. List of Chapters and Sections and Designation as to Strategic Plan or
Comprehensive Plan (Continued)
Strategic Plan Comprehensive
Chapter/Section (Harvested Plan (All
Species) Species)
VI. CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
1 Strategies for Addressing Priority Issues X X
2 Strategies for Addressing Species of Greatest X X
Conservation Concerns
VII. IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS PLAN
1 Implementation of Priority Issue Conservation X X
Strategies
2 Implementation of Species of Concern Conservation X X
Strategies
VIII. PLANS TO MONITOR IMPLEMENTATION OF CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
1 Plans to Monitor Priority Issue Strategies X X
2 Plans to Monitor Species of Concern Strategies X X
3 Adjusting and Adaptive Conservation Strategies X X
Based on Feed Back from Monitoring

IX. PLANS FOR THE DECADAL REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THIS PLAN
1 Review Period X X
2 Decadal Review Procedures X X
3 Review the Success in Implementation of this Plan X X
4 Resources for Conducting the Review X X

APPENDICES
1 MARINE SPECIES OVERVIEW
A. Reef Fish X X
B. Invertebrates X X
C. Other Species X
2 U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS MARINE HABITAT
MAPS
A. Marine Habitat Maps of St. Thomas/St. John X X
B. Marine Habitat Maps of St. Croix X X
3 SUMMARY OF MARINE RESOURCE AND
FISHERIES REGULATIONS
A. Territorial Regulations X X
B. Federal Regulations X X
4 COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN'S VIEWPOINT
A. Draft Plan Review Comments X
B. Open Letter From STFA to DPNR X
5 PUBLIC MEETING PRESS RELEASES, X X
ATTENDANCE, AND MEMOS






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005


LIST OF ACRONYMS


ACRONYM NAME OR PHRASE
ACOE U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
APC Areas of Particular Concern
APR Areas for Preservation and Restoration
BIG USFWS Boat Infrastructure Grant
BIRNM Buck Islands Reef National Monument
BVI British Virgin Islands
CL Carapace Length
CFMC Caribbean Fisheries Management Council
CG U.S. Coast Guard
CMES Center for Marine and Environmental Studies
CRRT Caribbean Rapid Response Team
CWA U.S. Clean Water Act
CZM Coastal Zone Management
DCZM U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Coastal Zone Management
DEE U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Environmental Enforcement
DEP U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Environmental Protection
DFW U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife
DOI U.S. Department of Interior
DOS U.S. Department of State
DPNR U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources
DPW Department of Public Works
ECC Eastern Caribbean Center, University of the Virgin Islands
EEMP East End Marine Park (St. Croix)
EEZ United States Exclusive Economic Zone
EIS Environmental Impact Statement
EPA U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPIRB Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon
ESA U.S. Endangered Species Act
FAC Fisheries Advisory Committee
FAD Fish Aggregation Device
FMP Fisheries Management Plan
HMS SAFE Highly Migratory Species Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation
ICE Island Conservation Effort
IRF Island Resources Foundation
IUCN Internatl. Union for the Conservation of Nature-World Conserv. Union
IWC International Whaling Commission
LAS Local Action Strategy
MCD Marine Conservation District
MMPA U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act
MPA Marine Protected Areas
MMSC/UVI MacLean Marine Science Center, University of the Virgin Islands












ACRONYM NAME OR PHRASE
MPRSA U.S. Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
MSY Maximum Sustainable Yield
NEPA U.S. National Environmental Policy Act
NOAA Fisheries National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries
NOS National Ocean Service
NPDES National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
NPS U.S. National Park Service
OC Ocean Conservancy
OSP Optimum Sustainable Population
OY Optimum Yield
PBR Potential Biological Removal
REF Reef Ecology Foundation
SEAMAP-C Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Project Caribbean
SFA U.S. Sustainable Fisheries Act
SPR Spawning Potential Ratio
SSBR Spawning Stock Biomass Per Recruit
STFA St. Thomas Fishermen's Association
STJ St. John
STP Secondary Treatment Plant
STT St. Thomas
STX St. Croix
SWG State Wildlife Grant
TBT tributyltin
TL Total Length
TNC The Nature Conservancy
TOC The Ocean Conservancy
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
USFWS U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS U.S. Geological Service
USVI United States Virgin Islands
UVI University of the Virgin Islands
VIRR Virgin Islands Rules and Regulations
VICRNM Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
VINP Virgin Islands National Park
VIPD Virgin Island Police Department
VIRMC Virgin Islands Resource Management Cooperative
YONAH Year of the North Atlantic Humpback


U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005


LIST OF ACRONYMS (continued)






U.S. Virgin Islands xii
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
2005

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


The principal investigators on this project were Ron Sjoken with assistance from Dr. Roger
Uwate, Division of Fish and Wildlife. They had primary responsibility for plan coordination,
information synthesis, and authorship.

The completion of this plan was due to the efforts of many people. The authors acknowledge the
insightful responses and suggestions from commercial fishers, recreational fishing club
members, marine researchers in the USVI, and the marine recreation industry, all respondents to
DFW opinion surveys. Their input was critical in identifying priority issues and strategies for
addressing these issues.

In addition, most Bureau of Fisheries staff were involved in this plan at one stage or another.
David Camoyan is acknowledged for searching all DFW/STX staff offices for relevant technical
reports and providing copies to DFW/STT. William Tobias, Willy Ventura, David Camoyan,
Hector Rivera, and Wes Toller (DFW/STX) fielded the various opinion surveys on St. Croix.
Shenell Gordon, Jennifer Messineo, Ruth Gomez, and Donna Jackson fielded the various opinion
surveys on St. Thomas. Gordon, Messineo, and Uwate completed reports on results of these
opinion surveys.

An earlier draft of this plan was reviewed by William Tobias, Jason Vasques, Ruth Gomez, Wes
Toller, Cheryl Ondeka, Christine O'Sullivan, Shenell Gordon, and Barbara Kojis. The authors
would also like to thank Rick Nemeth, Caroline Rogers, Rafe Boulon, Barry Devine, Hillary
Nobles, and Amy Dempsey for providing reports and access to their files.

External reviewers included: Rick Nemeth, Director, Center for Marine and Environmental
Science, University of the Virgin Islands; Marcia Taylor, Marine Advisory Service, CMES, UVI;
Ed Towle and Bruce Potter of the Island Resources Foundation, St. Thomas; Victor Somme,
Director, and Bill Rohring, Assistant Director, of the Division of Coastal Zone Management;
Lucia Francis, Director of the Division of Environmental Enforcement; Aaron Hutchins, Director
of the Division of Environmental Protection; Harry Clinton, Chairman of the St. Thomas/St.
John Fisheries Advisory Committee and other St. Thomas/St. John FAC members; Gerson
Martinez, Chairman of the St. Croix Fisheries Advisory Committee and other St. Croix FAC
members; Paul Chakroff, The Nature Conservancy; Nicolas Drayton, The Ocean Conservancy;
Rafe Boulon the National Park Service; Caroline Rogers, the United States Geological Survey;
David A. Olsen, Fisheries Consultant; Robert McAuliffe, the St. Croix Fishermen's Cooperative;
Julian Magras, St. Thomas Fishermen's Association; and Barry Devine, Chief Scientist, Eastern
Caribbean Center, UVI.

In addition, Judy Pierce and Renata Platenberg provided assistance regarding the application of
adaptive management to conservation strategies (in Chapter VIII).






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE

1. Setting

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) is a territory of the United States. It lies in the northeast
Caribbean (Figure I-1), in the subtropics at 18 north and 65 west. It consists of four major
islands, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island, and about 50 cays (Figure 1-2). St.
Thomas and St. John, part of the northern Virgin Islands, lie on the Puerto Rico Bank that
extends from western Puerto Rico to eastern Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. St. Croix, the
largest of the US Virgin Islands, is 40 miles to the south and is separated from the Puerto Rico
Bank by a deep trench. The USVI is politically and administratively separated into two districts,
St. Thomas/St. John District and St. Croix District.


Figure I-1. Map showing the location of Figure 1-2. Map of the Virgin Islands.
the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean

70' 60,



-"-. C ( British Virgin Islands



Caribbean Sea .. -
100 nm N

US Virgin Islands
COLOMBIA S -
V VENEZU LA



The U.S. Virgin Islands have many natural resources and contain examples of tropical
ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows, salt ponds, algal plains, and mangrove forests
(Adey 1975; Adey et al. 1977; Aley et al. 1989; Smith et al. 1997; Garcia Sais 2004; Goenaga
and Boulon 1992; IUCN 1988; IRF 2002; Ogden 1974; Olsen et al. 1981; Stengel 1998; Tetra
Tech 1991a; U.S. Coral Reef Task Force 2002; and USGS 1994). These habitats provide food
and shelter for a large variety of marine and terrestrial life (Adams and Ebersole 2002; AFS
2004; Boulon 1992; Dennis 1992; Gladfelter 1988; Hay 1984; Munro 1984; Ogden 1980; Ogden
and Zieman 1977; Ogden and Lobel 1978; Philibosian and Yntema 1977; and UNESCO 1983).
There are resident populations of fish and wildlife. In addition, a variety of fish and wildlife
migrate through the USVI annually (Dixon 1994; Friedlander 1995; Norton undated; O'Connor
1991; and Oxenford and Hunte 1984).






U.S. Virgin Islands 2
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

These natural resources are under pressure from a variety of user groups (Allen 1992; Ellison
and Farnsworth 1996; Rogers and Beets 2001; Short and Wyllie-Echeverria 1996; Tetra Tech
1992; Thayer et al. 1975; and Turgeon et al. 2002). The marine waters are heavily fished by
both recreational and commercial fishermen (Beets 1987, 1990, 1996, 1997a, 1997b; Bohnsack
1992; Coblentz 1997; Ditton 1978; Ditton and Stoll 2000; Garrison et al. 1998; Holt and Uwate
2004; Olsen and Wood 1982; Roberts 1995; Sheridan et al. 2003; and USVI Govt. 1987).
Annually, thousands of tourists visit the USVI to go snorkeling and/or diving (Garcia-Moliner et
al. 2001; Hawkins et al. 1999; Marion and Rogers 1994; Rogers and Garrison 2001; Rogers and
Needham 1991; Rogers et al. 1988a, 1988b; and Tilmant 1987). In addition, economic
development such as home and hotel construction continues to infringe on coastal environments
(Gilliard-Payne 1988; MacDonald et al. 1997; Mannoni 1999; and Nemeth and Sladek-Nowlis
2001).

These natural resources are also under pressure due to the high residential population densities
that exist in the Virgin Islands, which are comparable to urban areas in the continental U.S. and
are long standing (territorial populations in Danish colonial days were over 43,000). St. Thomas,
with an area of 32 sq. miles, has a population of approximately 51,300 (July 2004 estimate). St.
John, with an area of 19 sq. miles (2/3 of which is national park), has a population of
approximately 3,600, St. Croix, with an area of 84 sq. miles, has a population of approximately
53,375, and Water Island has a population of less than 500. This is a total population of 108,775
with a density of approximately 800 people per square mile (CIA 2004).


Agencies of the Government of the United States Virgin Islands

Constitutional provisions of the U.S. Virgin Islands are established by the U.S. Congress. The
current version of that law is termed the "1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands",
amended in 1968-72 (CIA 2004). The Virgin Islands has a unicameral legislature of fifteen
Senators; seven of whom are resident in St. Thomas or Water Island and are elected at large by
voters resident in the district of St. Thomas/Water Island; seven of whom are resident in St.
Croix and are elected at large by voters resident in the district of St. Croix; and one of whom is a
resident of St. John, elected at large by voters from all islands.

The institution responsible for the management of marine resources in the U.S. Virgin Islands is
the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR). Within territorial waters (less than
3 miles from shore), rules and regulations are codified in the Virgin Islands Rules and
Regulations (VIRR), primarily within Title 12. Rules and regulations are enacted only by the
executive branch. Laws are enacted by both the legislative branch and executive branch.

Fisheries and marine resource management suggestions can come from a variety of sources
including local government agencies, the public, commercial fishermen, university scientists, the
local Fisheries Advisory Committees (FAC), and the St. Croix Fishermen's Co-op. In recent
years, most suggestions for the management of marine resources and fisheries have been initiated
by the local Fisheries Advisory Committees, which are composed of representatives from
government, marine scientists, commercial and recreational fishers, charterboat fishers, and dive
operators. For example, the recent initiative to limit issuance of new fishing licenses was a St.
Croix FAC initiative. The DPNR Commissioner typically requests a public hearing on a






U.S. Virgin Islands 3
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

recommendation. This allows the public to provide input into the management suggestions.
Based on the results of public hearings, the advice of local government agencies (especially the
Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the Division of Environmental Enforcement), and the range of
authority of the DPNR Commissioner, the DPNR Commissioner may either issue a regulation or
may suggest amendments or adjustments to the VIRR.

The role of the Division of Fish and Wildlife is quite varied and includes the following functions:

1) advise and support the local Fisheries Advisory Committees,

2) conduct appropriate research to assess the fisheries and marine resources,

3) review scientific literature and provide guidance based on the best available
information, and

4) advise the DPNR Commissioner on fisheries and marine resource issues and
management options.

Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) research continues in the USVI on a variety of natural
resource issues relating to fish and wildlife (DFW 2003). It receives little local funding support.
Funding is almost exclusively from two main sources: 1) Division of Federal Aid, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (USFWS), Department of the Interior, and 2) the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries), Department of Commerce. As such,
funded research projects are primarily ad hoc, and based on the priorities of each federal agency
or grant program. These federal priorities may or may not be related to key resource priorities in
the US Virgin Islands.

Within DPNR, there are other divisions that have responsibilities relating to the marine
environment. The Division of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) requires a permit for any land
or water disturbance that could impact territorial waters (within the first tier of the coastal zone,
as designated by the CZM Act). The Division of Environmental Protection regulates discharge
into territorial waters and issues earth change permits in the second tier of the coastal zone. The
Division of Environmental Enforcement is responsible for enforcing regulations within USVI
waters (Uwate 2002).

There are numerous other organizations conducting marine and fisheries related research in the
USVI, including the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), the Division of Coastal Zone
Management (CZM), the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP), Island Resources
Foundation (IRF), private consulting companies, the National Park Service (NPS), the United
States Geological Survey (USGS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Ocean Conservancy,
NOAA Fisheries, the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC), and individual
researchers from universities outside of the USVI. Each organization has its own research
priority and research interests.






U.S. Virgin Islands 4
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

2. NEED FOR CONSERVATION AND STRATEGIC PLANS

To date, there has been no comprehensive or strategic plan for the management of fish and
wildlife resources in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Therefore, there is a need to compile such a plan.

As part of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2002 (115
Stat. 414 Public Law 107-63-Appendix A), a State Wildlife Grants program was initiated "for
the development and implementation of programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat,
including species that are not hunted or fished". A stipulation of the act was that "no State,
territory, or other jurisdiction shall receive a grant unless it has developed or committed to
develop by October 1, 2005, a comprehensive wildlife conservation plan". Thus, to be eligible
for future funding from congress under this Act, DFW must submit a comprehensive wildlife
conservation plan that is approved by the USFWS, and which contains eight required elements
outlined or listed in the Act, described in Chapter 2, section 1. Since the Division of Fish and
Wildlife is nearly 100% federally funded, this is the main funding source that allows the Division
to research and manage species that are not hunted or fished.

The final plan, to be submitted in 2005, is to incorporate both fish and wildlife (plants are
subsumed within wildlife habitats). To achieve this goal, DFW decided to develop the plan in
three phases: 1) a wildlife plan to be prepared by the Bureau of Wildlife and the Bureau of
Environmental Education during the first year; 2) a fisheries and marine resources plan to be
prepared by the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Environmental Education during the
following 2 years; and 3) a comprehensive fish and wildlife plan to be integrated by 2005.
However, due to the differences in funding sources, conservation requirements, overall priorities,
and organizational constraints, DFW has since committed to producing two stand-alone
documents: (1) a terrestrial wildlife comprehensive conservation plan, and (2) a fisheries and
marine resources strategic and comprehensive marine wildlife conservation plan.


3. PREVIOUS USVI FISHERIES AND MARINE RESOURCES RELATED PLANS

Territorial Plans

Numerous plans have been written or drafted relating to management of fisheries and marine
resources in the US Virgin Islands. These plans have focused on management of particular
areas, issues, habitats, and species in the USVI.

For St. Thomas, site specific marine resource management plans exist for the St. Thomas
mangrove lagoon area (Anon. 1980), Cas Cay Wildlife Sanctuary (Anon. 1983), Red Hook
marine terminal (deJongh & Associates 1993), Magens Bay Area of Particular Concern (APC)
(IRF 1992a), Vessup Bay APC (IRF 1992b), Botany Bay APC (IRF 1993a), Mangrove
Lagoon/Benner Bay APC (IRF 1993b), Mandahl Bay APC (IRF 1993c), St. Thomas Harbor and
Waterfront APC (IRF 1993d), Crown Bay (W.F. McComb et al. 1984), and St. Thomas National
Marine Sanctuary (OCZM 1981).






U.S. Virgin Islands 5
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

For St. John, site specific marine resource management plans have been written for Enighed
Pond/Cruz Bay APC (IRF 1992c), Chocolate Hole/Great Cruz Bay APC (IRF 1993e), Coral Bay
APC (IRF 1993f), and Fish Bay (Watershed Planning Committee, no date).

For St. Croix, site specific marine resource management plans have been written for the east end
of St. Croix APC (IRF 1992d), Great Pond Bay APC (Bacle 1992, IRF 1992e), Christiansted
Waterfront APC (1993g), Frederiksted Waterfront APC (IRF 1993h), Salt River/Sugar Bay APC
(IRF 1993i), Sandy Point APC (IRF 1993j), Southgate Pond/Cheney Bay APC (IRF 1993k),
Southshore Industrial Area APC (IRF 19931), St. Croix's coral reef system APC (IRF 1993m;
Teyaud 1980), and management of the St. Croix East End Marine Park (The Nature Conservancy
2002). See Figures I-3 and I-4 for the locations of these APCs (areas of particular concern). The
V.I. Government established its first marine park, the St. Croix East End Marine Park (EEMP),
in January 2003. The EEMP is being developed as part of the National Action Plan to Conserve
Coral Reefs. To ensure the long-term success of this newly established park, the Virgin Islands
has decided to continue the bottom-up approach for developing conservation activities within the
boundaries of the EEMP (USVI Govt. 2004). The V.I. Government has also decided that the
EEMP will be the focal point around which development of the Local Action Strategies (LAS)
will occur for the first 3-year period. The overall goal is to implement and expand the existing
EEMP Management Plan, which is the result of 2 years of workshops that relied heavily on
community input and expertise (USVI Govt. 2004).









3 .O' 7

*

9
8
6



Figure 1-3. Regional APC Map for St. Thomas and St. John. Adapted from
OCZM 1988, and Island Resources Foundation 1993a.
St. Thomas: St. John:
1.) St. Thomas Harbor and Waterfront 7.) Enighed Pond-Cruz Bay
2.) Botany Bay 8.) Chocolate Hole-Great Cruz Bay
3.) Magens Bay and Watershed 9.) Lagoon Point-Coral Harbor
4.) Mandahl Bay
5.) Vessup Bay-East End
6.) Mangrove Lagoon-Benner Bav






U.S. Virgin Islands 6
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose







9 3

S2 4









7







Figure 1-4. Regional APC Map for St. Croix. Adapted from OCZM 1988,
and Island Resources Foundation, 1993a.
St. Croix:
1.) Christiansted Waterfront 6.) Southshore Industrial Area
2.) Southgate Pond-Cheney Bay 7.) Sandy Point
3.) St. Croix Coral Reef System 8.) Frederiksted Waterfront
4.) East End 9.) Salt River-Sugar Bay
5.) Great Salt Pond Bay

USVI marine resource management plans that deal with more general issues include: wetlands
(Department of Housing, Parks, and Recreation 1988); sediment control and monitoring (Island
Resources Foundation 1996); saltwater wetlands protection (Knowles 1997); the Territorial park
system (Policy and Planning Unit 1980); vessel waste control (Wemicke and Towle 1983);
recreation including marine recreation (USVI Govt. 1985); management of coral diseases (Davis
et al. no date); aquaculture development and management (Anon. 1995); coral reef management
(ReefKeeper 1993); recovery of marine turtle populations (Anon. 1993; Boulon et al. 1992;
NMFS 1992); monitoring habitat destruction from hurricanes (Aubrey et al. 1991); artificial reef
development (Beets 1992); land and water use (USVI Govt. 2000); implementing environmental
protection laws including marine environment issues (DCCZP 1994; OCZM 1988; and UVI
Cooperative Extension Service 2002); general fish and wildlife management (Bureau of Sport
Fisheries and Wildlife 1972).






U.S. Virgin Islands 7
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

One of the more recent management plans, prepared by the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the
request of the USFWS, was written in 2001 (Division of Fish and Wildlife 2001). This five year
management plan included strategies for the conservation, enhancement, and restoration of USVI
marine and wildlife resources. By so doing, DFW qualified for additional funding through the
USFWS Strategic Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program.


Federal Plans

In addition to territorial efforts, there have been many federal plans written or drafted for
management of marine habitats and species within federal waters, from 3 to 200 miles from the
coastline. These waters are under the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Fisheries Management
Council (CFMC) (NOAA Fisheries 2004). CFMC has been involved in developing fisheries
management plans for the following species: spiny lobsters (CFMC/NMFS 1981); queen conch
(Anon. no date a; and CFMC 1988, 1989, and 1999a); coral and reef associated plants and
invertebrates (Anon. no date b, Anon. 1982, CFMC 1993a, 1993b, 1994a, 1994b, 1998c, and
1999b; and U.S. Govt. 1999).

CFMC also completed work on management plans for the following: regulatory requirements for
management of coastal migratory pelagic resources including dolphin and wahoo (CFMC 1982),
and the general fisheries resources within the US Exclusive Economic Zone around Puerto Rico
and the USVI (CFMC 1983a, 1983b); the shallow-water reef fish fishery of Puerto Rico and the
Virgin Islands (CFMC 1984, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, and 1996; and NMFS 1990); and
essential fish habitats in the U.S. Caribbean (Anon. 2001; CFMC 1998b; and NMFS no date).
CFMC has also completed work on amending relevant Caribbean fisheries management plans
(CFMC 1998a, and 2001). Public response, and commercial fishermen's response in particular,
to CFMC's management plans has been critical due to the perception that fisheries data from
Puerto Rico are driving the push for more strict management measures in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are marine resource and fisheries management plans that deal with species in both
territorial and federal waters around the USVI. These are for the highly migratory species such
as Atlantic tunas, swordfish, sharks, and billfish (Anon. 1998; Highly Migratory Species
Management Division 1998, and 2004; and NMFS 1999; for sharks see NMFS 1991; for billfish
see NMFS 1998; for swordfish see NMFS 2000 and South Atlantic Fisheries Management
Council 1990).

The National Park Service is initiating a major planning effort that will guide the future
management of the Virgin Islands National Park, the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National
Monument, and the Buck Island Reef National Monument. Virgin Islands National Park (VINP)
comprises slightly more than half of the island of St. John and almost nine square miles of the
waters surrounding St. John (VINP 2004). The new Virgin Islands Coral Reef National
Monument (VICRNM) (12,708 acres) was established in January 2001 to expand protection of
marine resources located near the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John. There was a V.I.
Senate resolution opposing this action and the failure to follow NEPA-required processes. Also
in 2001, the Buck Island Reef National Monument (BIRNM) in St. Croix was expanded more






U.S. Virgin Islands 8
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

Presidential Proclamations, calling for both areas to be administered as no-take marine reserves.
The new VICRNM was established, and existing BIRNM expanded, largely to restore fish
populations and protect reef ecosystems (NPS 2004). Each area is entirely no-take except for
fishing for bait fish at Hurricane Hole, St. John, and rod and line fishing for blue runner via
permit at VICRNM. Anchoring is not permitted. Regulations to implement the new Monuments
took effect in April 2003.

In addition to the above planning efforts, various agencies have written marine resource
management plans or guidelines that include or are related to the USVI (NOAA 2004; NOAA
Fisheries 1996, 2003; NOS 1998; and UNEP 1996).


Success of Previous Plans

As presented above, there has been much written regarding plans. Some of these plans have
been successfully implemented or at least partially implemented. However, many plans have
been left by the wayside. Without adequate support, in terms of funding, resources, and political
will, no plan can be successful.

The distinction between this plan and other plans, such as the CFMC plans, also needs to be
made. This plan is a product of the territorial Virgin Islands government and predominately
deals with management issues in territorial waters, from 0 to 3 miles offshore. Federal plans,
such as the CFMC plans, deal with management issues in Federal waters, from 3 to 200 miles
offshore. As such, area closures are primarily a Federal management issue.


4. BENEFITS OF A USVI STRATEGIC AND COMPREHENSIVE MARINE
RESOURCES AND FISHERIES PLAN

The strategic and comprehensive marine resources and fisheries plan will consolidate and
document all research and project work related to the status of USVI marine resources and
fisheries. Based on the consolidation and review of these previous studies, an assessment can be
made regarding these resources. Critical research and data deficiencies and needs can then be
identified.

This plan also provides an opportunity to clearly state the objectives of marine resource and
fisheries management in the USVI. These objectives should be compiled in consultation with
government as well as private sector input.

This plan also provides a forum for public input regarding the priority issues of the USVI's
marine resources and fisheries. Public input is critical to identifying priority issues. Finally, the
plan will serves as a blueprint or nautical chart for addressing and resolving the priority issues
concerning USVI marine resources and fisheries.






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Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

5. OBJECTIVE

The overall objective of this plan is to manage the fisheries and marine resources in a sustainable
manner for the continued benefit of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands.


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IRF. 1993k. Southgate Pond/Chenay Bay Area of Particular Concern (APC) and Area for
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IRF. 1993m. St. Croix Coral Reef System Area of Particular Concern (APC) and Area for
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Rogers, C.S. and J. Beets. 2001. Degradation of Marine Ecosystems and Decline of Fishery
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Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. 1990. Amendment #1 to the Fishery
Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Swordfish. Draft Amendment to FMP for Atlantic
Swordfish. South Atlantic Fishery Mgmt. Council (SAFMC), Oct. 1990.

Stengel, Carolyn A. 1998. The survey of the salt ponds of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Final Report:
EPA Wetlands Protection C-21. USVI Dept. of Planning and Natural Resources/Div. of Fish and
Wildlife. 111 pp.

Tetra Tech. 1991a. Distinctive habitats of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:
Characterization, Location, and Areal Extent. Prepared for the U.S. EPA, Wash., D.C., by Tetra
Tech, Inc., Bellevue, WA.

Tetra Tech. 1992. Characterization of use impairments of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto
Rico. Prepared by Tetra Tech for the U.S. EPA.

Teyaud, A.R. 1980. Draft Guidance Plan for the St. Croix Coral Reef System, Area of
Particular Concern (APC). USVI Dept. of Conservation and Cultural Affairs.

Thayer, G.W., D.A. Wolfe, and R.B. Williams. 1975. The impact of man on seagrass systems.
Am. Sci., 63:288-296.

The Nature Conservancy. 2002. St. Croix East End Marine Park Management Plan. University
of the Virgin Islands and DPNR, USVI, July 18, 2002.

Tilmant, J.T. 1987. Impacts of recreational activities on coral reefs. pp. 195-214. In: Human
Impacts on Coral Reefs: Facts and Recommendations. B. Salvat (ed.). Antenne de Tahiti
Museum E.P.H.E., Papetoai, Moorea, French Polynesia.

Turgeon, D.D., R.G. Asch, B.D. Causey, R.E. Dodge, W. Jaap, K. Banks, J. Delaney, B.D.
Keller, R. Speiler, C.A. Matos, J.R. Garcia, E. Diaz, D. Catanzaro, C.S. Rogers, Z. Hillis-Starr,
R. Nemeth, M. Taylor, G.P. Schmahl, M.W. Miller, D.A. Gulko, J.E. Maragos, A.M.
Friedlander, C.L. Hunter, R.S. Brainard, P. Craig, R.H. Richond, G. Davis, J. Starmer, M.
Trianni, P. Houk, C.E. Birkeland, A. Edward, Y. Golbuu, J. Gutierrez, N. Idechong, G. Pauly, A.
Tafileichig, and N. Vander Velde. 2002. The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the U.S. and
Pacific Freely Associated States: 2002. NOAA/NOS/NCCOS, Silver Spring, MD. 265pp.

UNESCO. 1983. Coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves: Their interaction in the coastal
zones of the Caribbean. J.C. Ogden and E.H. Gladfelter, eds. 113 pp.

United Nations Environment Program. 1996. Guidelines for Integrated Planning and
Management of Coastal and Marine Areas in the Wider Caribbean Region. United Nations
Environment Program, Caribbean Environment Program, Kingston, Jamaica, 1996.

U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. 2002. Status of Coral Reefs in the U.S. Caribbean. In: Status of
Coral Reefs of the World: 2002. pp. 251-274.






U.S. Virgin Islands 21
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter 1. Introduction and Purpose

USGS. 1994. U.S. Virgin Islands Wetlands Resources. In: National Water Summary on Wetland
Resources. USGS Water-Supply Paper 2425. pp. 369-374.

United States Government. 1999. Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Corals
and Reef Associated Plants and Invertebrates of P.R. and U.S.V.I. Federal Register/Vol. 64, No.
213/Rules and Regulations, Nov. 4, 1999.

USVI Govt. 1985. Virgin Islands Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, Phase II, 1971-
1985. Report by the Govt. of the USVI.

USVI Govt. 1987. Proceedings of the Conference on Fisheries in Crisis. J. de Graaf and D.
Moore, eds. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, St.
Thomas, USVI. 147 p.

USVI Govt. 2000. Land and Water Use Plan for the Year 2000. USVI govt. public briefing
book: comprehensive development program USVI.

USVI Govt. 2004. Local Action Strategy (LAS) for Fishing in the St. Croix East End Marine
Park (EEMP). Draft #3, USVI Div. of Coastal Zone Management/DPNR.

University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service. 2002. Virgin Islands
Environmental Protection Handbook: A guide to assist in the implementation of environmental
protection laws of the USVI.

Uwate, K.R. 2002. Unpublished summary of fisheries management in the USVI. USVI Division
of Fish and Wildlife/DPNR. 2002.

VINP. 2004. Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument:
General Management Plans, Environmental Impact Statements.
http://www.nps.gov/sero/planning/viis_gmp/viis_info.htm

W.F. McComb, Inc., and Post, Buckley Schuh, and Jernigan, Inc. 1984. Master Plan Study:
Crown Bay Area. Study prepared for USVI DOC.

Watershed Planning Committee. no date. Fish Bay Watershed Management Plan. Prepared by
the Watershed Planning Committee, USVI.

Wernicke, W. and E.L. Towle. 1983. Vessel Waste Control Plan for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Report prepared by the Island Resources Foundation and the USVI Dept. of Conservation and
Cultural Affairs/Div. of Resource Mgmt.






U.S. Virgin Islands 22
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Format and Approach

CHAPTER II
APPROACH


1. USFWS EIGHT ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS

In April 2003, DFW staff attended a USFWS workshop on the comprehensive plan. In that
meeting, problems and difficulties were shared between the states regarding creation of the
comprehensive plan. At that time, USFWS did not provide guidance on required format for this
plan.

The following year, July 2004, DFW staff attended another workshop on the comprehensive
plan, where the USFWS did provide plan guidelines and required elements (see Anon. 2004).
During this meeting, eight required elements for the plan were specified. They are as follows:

1) Information on the distribution and abundance of species of wildlife, including
low and declining populations as the state fish and wildlife agency deems
appropriate, that are indicative of the diversity and health of the state's wildlife.

2) Description of locations and relative condition of key habitats and community
types essential to conservation of species identified in the 1st element.

3) Description of problems which may adversely affect species identified in the 1st
element or their habitats, and priority research and survey efforts needed to
identify factors which may assist in restoration and improved conservation of
these species and habitats.

4) Description of conservation actions determined to be necessary to conserve the
identified species and habitats and priorities for implementing such actions.

5) Description of the proposed plans for monitoring species identified in the 1st
element and their habitats, for monitoring the effectiveness of the conservation
actions proposed in the 4th element, and for adapting these conservation actions to
respond appropriately to new information or changing conditions.

6) Description of procedures to review the plan at intervals not to exceed ten years.

7) Description of the plans for coordinating, to the extent feasible, the development,
implementation, review, and revision of the plan/strategies with Federal, state,
and local agencies and Indian tribes that manage significant land and water areas
within the state or administer programs that significantly affect the conservation
of identified species and habitats.

8) Description of the necessary public participation in the development, revision, and
imnlp m ntnti nn nf thp nlan







U.S. Virgin Islands 23
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Format and Approach

These USFWS eight essential elements are addressed in various chapters and sections in this
plan. Table II-1 identifies specific chapters and sections in which these elements are discussed
or addressed.






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


Table II-1. Chapters and Sections of this Plan that Address the USFWS Eil
(page numbers indicated in table)
USFWS Eight Essen
Chapter/Section 1 2 3 4
species habitat problems proposed
info info actions
I INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE
1. Setting 1 1 2
2. Need for Conservation and 4
Strategic Plans
3. Previous USVI Fisheries and 4-8 4-8 4-8
Marine Resources Related Plans
4. Benefits of a Strategic and
Comprehensive Marine Resources
and Fisheries Plan
5. Objective
II APPROACH
1. USFWS Eight Essential Elements 22 22 22 22
2. Approach to Making this Plan 23, 28-30 23, 30

III OVERVIEW OF HABITATS, ECOSYSTEMS, AND SPECIES
1. Physical Setting 33-34
2. Coral Reefs 34-71 34-71 54-61
3. Mangroves 71-87 71-87 78-82
4. Seagrass Beds 88-95 88-95 93
5. Salt Ponds 96-100 96-100 99
6. Algal Plains 100-102 100-102 102
7. Marine Species 103






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


Table II-1 (continued). Chapters and Sections of this Plan that Address the USFWS Eight Essential Elements
(page numbers indicated in table)
USFWS Eight Essential Elements
Chapter/Section 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
species habitat problems proposed monitor plan plan public
info info actions plans review coord input
IV OVERVIEW OF FISHERIES AND MARINE RECREATION
1. Commercial Fisheries 132-134 135-139, 144-146 144- 143-
142-144 146 144
2. Recreational Fisheries 147-152 152 152-153
3. Marine Recreation 157-162 164-165
V IDENTIFICATION OF PRIORITY ISSUES AND SPECIES OF CONCERN
1. Identification of Priority Issues 174-178 174-
178
2. Identification of Species of 178-189
Conservation Concern
VI CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
1. Strategies for Addressing Priority 191-211 191-211 194- 191-
Issues 211 211
2. Strategies for Addressing Species 211-217 211-
of Greatest Conservation 217
Concerns
VII PLAN IMPLEMENTATION
1. Implementation of Priority Issue 225-238 225-238 225-
Conservation Strategies 238
2. Implementation of Species of 225,239- 225, 225,
Concern Conservation Strategies 243 239-243 239-
243






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


Table II-1 (continued). Chapters and Sections of this Plan that Address the USFWS Eight Essential Elements
(page numbers indicated in table)
USFWS Eight Essential Elements
Chapter/Section 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
species habitat problems proposed monitor plan plan public
info info actions plans review coord input
VIII PLANS TO MONITOR IMPLEMENTATION OF CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
1. Plans to Monitor Priority Issue 244-256 244-256 244-256 244-
Strategies 256
2. Plans to Monitor Species of 244, 257- 244, 244,
Concern Strategies 261 257-261 257-
261
3. Adjusting and Adapting 262-264
Conservation Strategies Based on
Feedback from Monitoring
IX DECADAL REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THIS PLAN
1. Review Period 266
2. Decadal Review Procedures 266-267 266- 266-
267 267
3. Review the Success in 267 267
Implementation of this Plan
4. Resources for Conducting the 267
Review
APPENDICES
1. MARINE SPECIES OVERVIEW
A. ReefFish 268-372 268-372
B. Invertebrates 273-385 273-385
C. C. Other Species 386-418 386-418






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


Table II-1 (continued). Chapters and Sections of this Plan that Address the USFV
(page numbers indicated in Table)
USFWS Eight Essen
Chapter/Section 1 2 3 4
species habitat problems proposed
info info actions
APPENDICES
2. U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS MARINE
HABITAT MAPS
A. Marine Habitat Maps of St.
Thomas/St. John 443-468
B. Marine Habitat Maps of St. Croix 469-499
3. SUMMARY OF MARINE
RESOURCES AND FISHERIES
REGULATIONS
A. Territorial Regulations 500-502 502-505
B. B. Federal Regulations 505-509 509-512
4. DRAFT PLAN REVIEW
COMMENTS
5. PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS
AND PUBLIC MEETINGS






U.S. Virgin Islands 28
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


(1) Solicit Public and User Group Input

Input from the public and resource user groups are essential to make any management approach
successful. Various public forums, including opinion surveys, focus groups, and workshops,
were used to identify public opinions and priorities.

Over the last few years, the following user groups were surveyed for their opinions regarding the
marine resources and fisheries in the U.S. Virgin Islands:

1) In 2000, a telephone survey of registered boaters, targeting boat-based fishers,
was subcontracted to the Eastern Caribbean Center (ECC 2002).

2) In 2001, at the request of the St. Thomas/St. John Fisheries Advisory Committee
(FAC), the USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) conducted an opinion
survey ofUSVI commercial fishers (Uwate et al. 2001).

3) In 2002, DFW conducted opinion surveys of commercial fishers and the marine
recreational industry (Gordon and Uwate 2003).

4) In 2003, DFW conducted a survey of USVI recreational fishing club members
(Messineo and Uwate 2004). This involved members of the two existing
recreational fishing clubs in the USVI: 1) the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club
on St. Thomas, and 2) the Golden Hook Fishing Club on St. Croix.

5) In late 2003, a census of the commercial fishers of the USVI was conducted
(Kojis 2004).

6) In 2004, DFW conducted an opinion survey of USVI marine researchers
(Messineo et al. 2004).

Results of these surveys are presented in the section on priorities of marine resources and
fisheries. These opinions provided essential input for the identification of (see Chapter V), and
possible solutions to (see Chapter VI), the priority issues in this report.


(2) Soliciting Relevant Scientific and Technical Reports, and Setting up the Library

Prior to the start of this planning effort, a centralized technical report library did not exist at the
Division of Fish and Wildlife. DFW staff inspected more than 150 boxes of files in various
storage locations on St. Thomas. Relevant technical reports were identified and pulled out of
these storage boxes. A library of technical reports was then started at the St. Thomas DFW.
Reports were initially organized by subject. Since these initial holdings were so large and
geographically diverse, all reports dealing with USVI marine resources and fisheries were
identified, separated out, and re-organized by subject. Reports were then cataloged into an






U.S. Virgin Islands 29
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach


Once the Access database was completed for DFW/STT holdings, a hard copy was printed of
current holdings. DFW/STX staff investigated their office files and identified other USVI
marine resource and fisheries reports at that office. Hard copies were made of these reports and
forwarded to DFW/STT. In addition, DFW/STT staff searched their individual offices to
identify relevant USVI marine resources and fisheries reports. These were also added to the
DFW/STT library.

After the internal searches were completed and the Access database was up-dated, DFW staff
visited relevant local agencies for any additional reports dealing with USVI marine resources and
fisheries. External agencies visited include: the Main Library, Eastern Caribbean Center (ECC),
and Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) at the University of the Virgin
Islands (UVI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC, St. Croix Office), The Ocean Conservancy
(TOC, St. John Office), Coastal Zone Management (CZM), the Island Resources Foundation
(IRF), Biolmpact (a private environmental consulting company based on St. Croix), the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Park Service (NPS).

Copies were made of relevant USVI marine resources and fisheries reports based on the various
searches identified above. These were added to the St. Thomas DFW library. The Access
database of holdings was periodically updated. A literature search of Aquatic Sciences and
Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) using key words such as Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. John, and
St. Croix resulted in more than 1,000 scientific articles. ASFA abstracts for these reports were
downloaded and reviewed. A list of literature relevant to USVI marine resources and fisheries
was then compiled. This list was compared with DFW Access data file of USVI marine
resources and fisheries reports. Reports not in DFW Access data file were then acquired from
the University of the Virgin Islands Main Library. Those reports that could not be located at
UVI were requested directly from the authors. To date, more than 1,100 USVI marine resources
and fisheries related reports have been collected and compiled at DFW/STT library.


(3) Review and Incorporate Reports into this Plan

USVI marine resources and fisheries reports collected were then available and easily accessible
at DFW/STT. As each of the sections of this plan was developed, DFW Access database of
USVI marine resources and fisheries reports was searched. Relevant reports needed as
background for this plan were reviewed.


(4) Identify Priorities and Major Problems

There were two sources of guidance used to determine priorities and major problems with USVI
marine resources and fisheries: literature review and opinion surveys. Relevant scientific
literature and technical reports collected on USVI marine resources and fisheries were reviewed.
In addition, results from six opinion surveys (see above) were reviewed. These reports identified






U.S. Virgin Islands 30
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach

above, and internal DFW consultations, a list of priority issues and major problems with USVI
marine resources and fisheries was prepared (Chapter V).


(5) Propose Solutions or Specific Actions to Address Priorities and Resolve Major
Problems

As above, literature reviews and opinion surveys were also used to identify solutions and
proposed actions for priorities and major problems in USVI marine resources and fisheries.
Based on this, and internal DFW consultations, a list of solutions and proposed actions for the
priority issues and major problems with USVI marine resources and fisheries was prepared
(Chapter VI).

Some of these solutions were within the mandates of DFW, others were outside of DFW's
mandates. For example, the Division of Environmental Enforcement (DEE), not DFW, would be
the lead agency responsible for addressing the issue of enforcement. Collaboration is needed
with appropriate agencies in order to develop and implement programs to address identified
priorities. Proposed solutions or strategies for addressing priority issues and species of concern
are identified and documented (Chapter VI). Key agencies with primary and secondary
responsibilities in addressing these priority issues were then identified (Chapter VII). In
addition, steps required to implement these proposed solutions or strategies were identified
(Chapter VII).


(6) Propose Programs to Monitor Resolution of Priorities and Major Problems

The ultimate purpose of monitoring is to provide early detection of changes in the environment.
Monitoring programs should be linked with, and made an ongoing part of, overall management
strategies. Monitoring programs should trigger responsive actions of additional investigation
when signs of change beyond normally anticipated levels are observed (U.S. Coral Reef Task
Force 2000).

Once priorities, major problems, and their solutions were identified, steps for monitoring
implementation of strategies and the key agencies responsible for monitoring implementation
were identified (Chapter VIII).

Coupled with monitoring, is the need for assessing results, new information, or changing
environments so that appropriate adjustments can be made to the conservation strategy. These
feedback loops are critical to ensure that the conservation strategies are appropriate or are
adjusted as necessary to ensure that objectives are addressed. This is essential for adaptive
management of conservation strategies that will be applied during the implementation of this
plan (Chapter VIII).






U.S. Virgin Islands 31
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach

(7) Review of this Plan

Subsequent to internal review, the plan was sent to key individuals and agencies for external
review and comments (see list of external reviewers in Acknowledgment section). Comments
received from these individuals and agencies were reviewed and, as appropriate, were
incorporated into the final draft of this plan. In addition to the people and agencies approached
to review this plan, a series of public meetings were organized for public input into this plan.
Copies of this plan were also made available for public review on the USVI DFW website
(http://www.vifishandwildlife.com), in the St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix DFW offices, and
in public libraries on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Comments provided by the public were noted
and as appropriate, incorporated in this plan. Unusual comments were documented in Appendix
4 of the plan.


(8) Decadal Review and Update of this Plan

Procedures and preliminary plans for a decadal review and update of this plan are explained in
Chapter IX.


3. REFERENCES CITED

Anon. 2004. WCRP/SWG Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Plan) Guidelines
for Review and Recommendation of Acceptance. Handout from the SEAFWA meeting in
Atlanta, GA. 7/11/04 to 1/15/04. 2 pages.

Eastern Caribbean Center. 2002. Telephone Survey of Boat-Based Marine Recreational Fishing
in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 2000. University of the Virgin Islands submitted to USVI DPNR/Div.
of Fish and Wildlife.

Gordon, S. and K.R. Uwate. 2003. 2002 Opinion Survey ofU. S. Virgin Island Commercial
Fishers and the Marine Recreational Industry. USVI DPNR/Div. of Fish and Wildlife.

Kojis, B. 2004. Census of the Marine Commercial Fishers of the U.S. Virgin Islands. USVI
DFW/DPNR Report submitted to the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council.

Messineo, J. and K.R. Uwate. 2004. 2003 Opinion Survey of the U.S. Virgin Island
Recreational Fishing Club Members. USVI DPNR/Div. of Fish and Wildlife.

Messineo, J., E. Smith, and K.R. Uwate. 2004. 2004 Opinion Survey of U.S. Virgin Island
Marine Researchers. USVI Div. of Fish and Wildlife.

U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. 2000. Coral reef protected areas: a guide for management.
Prepared by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Working Group on Ecosystem Science and
Conservation, Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., 14 pp.






U.S. Virgin Islands 32
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan 2005
Chapter II. Approach

Uwate, K.R., W. Tobias, P. Nieves, H. Rivera, W. Ventura, and L. Critchley. 2001. Survey of
U.S. Virgin Island Commercial Fisher Opinions and Usage of New National Monument Areas
(Buck Island and South of St. John). USVI DPNR/Div. of Fish and Wildlife.






U.S. Virgin Islands 33
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Chapter III. Overview of Habitats, Ecosystems, and Species

CHAPTER III
OVERVIEW OF HABITATS, ECOSYSTEMS, AND SPECIES


1. PHYSICAL SETTING

The U.S. Virgin Islands lie in the subtropics at approximately 18 north and 65 west (see Figure
III-1). These islands, with the exception of St. Croix, are part of an island arc formed by the
subduction of one tectonic plate below another (Whetten 1966). St. Croix is the result of an
upthrust of ocean floor and is composed primarily of Cretaceous metasedimentary rock capped
by limestone facies of more recent origin (Whetten 1966). St. Thomas and St. John are typified
by steep mountainous or hilly slopes with little flat land suitable for agriculture or urban and
residential development. Suitable flat plains are mostly confined to coastal areas, thereby
isolating most of the population and industrial development to the coast. St. Croix, with its
different geological history, is less hilly. The Atlantic Ocean and the Puerto Rico Trench lie to
the north, with depths of 8,384 m (27,250 ft.). The Virgin Island Basin lies to the south of St.
Thomas with depths of 4,116 m (13,380 ft.) (IRF 1985).

Winds are typically steady and out of the northeast (the Trade Winds), averaging about 4 m/s
(7.8 knots) (Calvesbert 1970). Currents and waves are driven by the predominant Trade Winds
and therefore generally flow from east to west (the North Equatorial Current). Nearshore flow
patterns, however, may be more complex because of local physical features, semidiurnal and
diurnal tidal cycles (mean tidal range 0.24 to 0.30 m (0.80 to 0.98 ft.)), and local wind patterns
(IRF 1985). No upwelling is thought to occur around these islands, except possibly during
strong tropical storms or hurricanes.

The average air temperature is warm (240 to 270C (75.20 to 80.60 F)) and varies little throughout
the day or throughout the year. The annual mean daily average difference ranges from 5 to 140
C (2.800 to 7.840 F) (Calvesbert 1970). The small temperature fluctuation is a result of fairly
constant seawater temperatures and small island land masses. Warmest water temperatures
occur in August and range from 270 to 280 C (80.60 to 82.40 F). In the coldest month (February),
temperatures range from 250 to 260 C (77.00 to 78.80 F) (Calvesbert 1970).

Rainfall is accentuated by the mountainous terrain due to the rise and cooling of warm water-
laden air masses that pass over areas of high elevation. Rain typically falls in intense
cloudbursts, which lead to frequent flooding, even during months with lower average monthly
rainfall (Calvesbert 1970; and NOAA 1989). A poorly defined seasonal variation in rainfall is
evident, with December or January to April generally being considered dry months and May
through November or December being considered wet months. Rainfall quantity and seasonal
distribution vary regionally due to elevation and the location of areas behind mountainous
barriers (Calvesbert 1970). Because of the constant high temperatures and steady winds, both
evaporation and humidity are high. In areas of low rainfall, evaporation may exceed
precipitation, resulting in the formation of hypersaline ponds (salt ponds) along the coast.






U.S. Virgin Islands
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Chapter III. Overview of Habitats, Ecosystems, and Species

Figure III-1. Map of the U.S. Virgin Islands


S" Virgin IslaJis



CARIBBEAN SEA
} "


0 5 10
Kilometers
Kilometers


0 5 10
Kilometers


The U.S. Virgin Islands lie within the broad path of Caribbean hurricanes, which typically pass
from the southeast to the northwest. Hurricanes and tropical storms occur from June to
December, but most occur in the months of August and September (Tetra Tech 1992).
Hurricanes and large tropical storms that pass to the south and north may result in torrential
rainfall, causing flooding, property damage, loss of human lives, and impacts on the coastal biota
(Tetra Tech 1992). At least 12 major hurricanes and tropical storms have passed over or near






U.S. Virgin Islands 35
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Chapter III. Overview of Habitats, Ecosystems, and Species

these islands in the last half-century. Such hurricanes and storms not only cause physical
damage to nearshore habitats, especially coral reefs (Edmunds and Witman 1991; Glynn et al.
1964; Rogers 1980b; and Rogers et al. 1982, 1983, and 1991), but they also bring heavy rainfall,
which washes sediments and pollutants into coastal areas, where they may cause further damage.

Coastal marine environments in the U.S. Virgin Islands include a variety of supratidal, intertidal,
and subtidal habitats with a range from hard-bottom to soft-bottom substrates (Tetra Tech 1992).
The most distinctive of these habitats and perhaps the most widely studied are the coral, man-
grove, and seagrass communities. These habitats are highly productive ecosystems that support
a variety of organisms including important commercial species (Tetra Tech 1991a). They are
habitats of special concern due to their value as highly productive ecosystems that provide
natural resources (e.g., fish, shellfish, and recreational areas) for the human inhabitants of the
area. These habitats also serve as invaluable ecosystems for scientific research due to their very
high diversity, productivity, and the peculiar adaptations of resident species (Cintron and
Schaffer-Novelli 1983; Hodgson and Smith 1990; Lessios 1988; Lugo et al. 1988; Odum et al.
1982; and Stevenson 1988). Furthermore, several coral reef species have the potential for use in
drugs and as tools for bio-medical research (Angeles 1981; and Fenical 1982).

It is important to note that, although these three habitats (coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass
communities) are discussed separately in this document, they are not independent entities. These
distinctive habitats are interconnected with each other, as well as with other marine and
terrestrial ecosystems, by the exchange of nutrients, organic matter, and migratory animals (Tetra
Tech 1991a). The destruction or impairment of any one of these habitats will result in
deleterious impacts to adjacent habitats (Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli 1983; Bohnsack 1992; and
Goenaga and Boulon 1992). For example, seagrass beds serve as nursery grounds and secondary
feeding grounds for many coral reef animals and protect coral reefs by trapping sediment and
lowering the potential for sediment resuspension and transport. Coral reefs, in turn, dissipate
wave energy and protect inshore mangrove areas and quiescent lagoon areas which support the
establishment of seagrasses (Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli 1983). Coral reefs also provide
refuge for many animals that feed in seagrass and mangrove areas (Bohnsack 1992). Mangroves
trap particulates carried by water, thereby protecting seagrass beds and coral reefs from
excessive sediment loads. In addition, the export of mangrove leaf litter provides an important
food source for organisms inhabiting seagrass and coral reef communities, and mangroves serve
as spawning and nursery grounds for many animals that spend their adult lives in seagrass, coral
reef, or open-water areas (Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli 1983).

In addition to coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, there are two other integral, though less
well-known, marine habitats that are of considerable importance in the USVI. These are salt
ponds and algal plains. Although the waters of the USVI have large areas of colonized
hardbottom stemming from the settlement of gorgonians, solitary corals, scattered hermatypic
corals, sponges, etc. on geologic structure (i.e., bedrock) as well as on biogenic structure (i.e.,
dead coral, limestone rock), colonized hardbottom was not treated in this document as a separate
ecosystem, or habitat, per se. This was mainly due to lack of information/data specifically
concerning these areas, and to its ecological overlap with the above-mentioned habitats. Many
nearshore or shelf areas in the USVI are colonized hardbottom (Jason Vasques, USVI DFW
Fisheries Biologist III, personal communication). Most, if not all, of the priority issues and






U.S. Virgin Islands 36
Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Chapter III. Overview of Habitats, Ecosystems, and Species

solutions that apply to coral reefs also apply to colonized hardbottom. For these reasons,
colonized hardbottom will be treated under the coral reef category.

For maps illustrating type and areal extent of benthic habitat in the USVI, refer to Appendix 2.


2. CORAL REEFS

(1) General Description of Coral Reefs

Corals are animals whose fundamental unit is the coral polyp (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
Reef-forming corals are generally colonial and are placed in the order Scleractinia (scleractinian
or stony corals), which are capable of secreting a calcium carbonate skeleton (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). The reef-building or hermatypic corals have a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship
(living in close association that is also mutually beneficial) with zooxanthellae intracellularr
algae), which may contribute substantially to the nutrition of the polyps. Corals may also rely on
plankton, bacteria, and dissolved organic matter for nourishment. The dependence of some coral
species on their photosynthetic symbionts results in their dependence on adequate light
penetration for growth and reproduction (Rogers 1979). For the most part, this explains reef-
building coral's requirement for clear, sediment-free water. Coral "bleaching" is the result of a
breakdown in this close association. Bleaching in reef corals is due to the loss of zooxanthellae
from the host tissues. Various physiological stresses can induce coral bleaching, such as high or
low temperatures, high or low salinities, and high or low irradiance (Gladfelter 1988).

Major reef-building coral genera that occur in the Caribbean include Acropora, Montastraea,
Porites, Diploria, Siderastrea, andAgaricia (Tetra Tech 1991 a). Elkhorn coral (Acropora
palmata) and boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis) are generally the most numerous coral
species, although in some regions other species (e.g., staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis) may
be more common (Tetra Tech 1991a). In addition to these reef-building species, coral areas may
contain a variety of gorgonian corals which come in a variety of shapes of whips and fans. Coral
reefs also support a variety and abundance of reef associated organisms, including algae,
sponges, bryozoans, fishes, lobsters, and sea urchins (Tetra Tech 1991a). Coral reefs may exist
under a variety of conditions of water depth, bottom substrate, water quality, wave-energy, and
currents (Tetra Tech 1992).

The coral reef ecosystem has a variety of useful roles, all of which have a relevant and positive
influence on associated coastal habitats (UNESCO 1983). The most prominent role is the
provision of a diverse habitat for a large number of sessile and mobile organisms. In this regard,
one notable feature is the large proportion of species that live within the reef system but forage
and feed in contiguous areas on a diurnal cycle (Ogden and Zieman 1977). Conversely, many
non-reef species visit coral reefs at periodic intervals for the purpose of foraging and preying
upon coral reef inhabitants. The coral reef ecosystem is thus both a habitat and source of
nourishment for many species typically found in the coastal areas dominated by reefs (Ogden
and Zieman 1977).






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Although the coral reef ecosystem is dependent upon the seawater's having superior water-
quality characteristics, the reef itself plays a role in maintaining the quality of local waters
(Odum and Odum 1955). Water currents that circulate over and within a coral reef are "filtered"
as the reef system takes up and utilizes a variety of inorganic minerals, oxygen, organic detritus,
and plankton. The outflowing water carries small concentrations of metabolic wastes away from
the reef as well as planktonic larvae that are dispersed into other areas (Odum and Odum 1955).

Coral reefs tend to be positioned perpendicularly to the mean direction of wind-generated
currents flowing over the reef. Depending on the reefs proximity to adjacent coastal areas, this
characteristic can serve to weaken incoming waves, storm surge, or tsunamis, thus minimizing
erosion and coastal hazards behind the reef (Snedaker and Getter 1985). This creates a lagoon
and a protected coastal environment. This is particularly important for regions with low-lying
coastal plains (CFMC 1994).

Because of their high rates of calcification, coral reefs play a major role in the global calcium
cycle despite their limited areal extent, fixing about half of all the calcium entering the sea into
calcium carbonate (Fujita et al. 1992). Their role in the earth's carbon cycle and other geochem-
ical cycles is presently under investigation (Fujita et al. 1992). Models and limited field data
indicate that coral reefs, counter-intuitively, appear to be very small net sources of carbon
dioxide (less than 0.1 billion tons of carbon per year, as compared to about 6 billion tons of
carbon annually from fossil fuel combustion) to the atmosphere on decadal time scales (Fujita et
al. 1992). This is due to the release of carbon dioxide during calcification, which involves the
precipitation of calcium carbonate from bicarbonate and calcium in seawater (Fujita et al. 1992).
In addition, while coral reefs absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide (per unit area) during
photosynthesis, they generally release almost equivalent amounts via respiration, resulting in
little net storage (Fujita et al. 1992).

Coral reefs have a large variety of direct and indirect uses that benefit man and society (Snedaker
and Getter 1985). Their socioeconomic importance can be divided into three broad, albeit
interrelated, categories. These encompass, first, their physical reef-forming activities (CFMC
1994). Coral reefs provide the habitat on which other vertebrate and invertebrate reef-associated
organisms depend. Because of this their principal value is determined to be in non-consumptive
uses (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). They are among the most productive ecosystems on earth,
supporting a higher biological diversity than any other ecosystem, with the exception of tropical
rain forests.

Second, is the biological diversity of associated fauna and flora which support many of the
species exploited recreationally and commercially by man, and also generate a wealth of bio-
compounds of tremendous actual and potential medical importance (CFMC 1994). The large
yields obtained from marine fisheries supported by reef systems are estimated to be as high as
five tons/square kilometer (12 tons/square mile) (Snedaker and Getter 1985). This yield is not
limited to the fishes and crustaceans actually harvested from within the reef system, but also
includes a larger variety and quantity of organisms caught elsewhere but whose existence is
dependent upon the reef. Coral reef areas are the most productive tropical marine systems and
thus are the backbone of the food chain (Snedaker and Getter 1985). At the end of this food
chain are the fishery resources utilized by commercial and recreational fishermen. Coral reefs






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serve as breeding grounds, nurseries, feeding grounds, and refuge for most protected species, all
of which, and including coral reefs, are vulnerable to overfishing.

Third, is their importance in the promotion and development of income-earning tourist industries
(Snedaker and Getter 1985). The aesthetic and recreational aspects of coral reefs support major
tourist industries that are aimed at divers and fishermen, as well as others, who value the
presence of coral reefs for recreational purposes (Goenaga and Boulon 1992; and Tetra Tech
1992). The ecological habitats, marine aquatic life, consumption of fish and shellfish,
swimming, boating, and the aesthetic enjoyment of the islands are reasons that vacationers visit
the U.S. Virgin Islands (Tetra Tech 1992). The degradation of these resources, resulting in use
impairments, will present problems if it becomes too severe, and once it becomes obvious that
coastal areas are impaired, tourism is likely to decline (Tetra Tech 1992).


(2) USVI Coral Reefs

General coral reef types that have been observed in the U.S. Virgin Islands include the following
(Rogers et al. 1994; and Tetra Tech 1991a):

1) Fringing reefs A reef bordering a shoreline. These are emergent reefs extending
directly from shore. These reefs are often found as extensions of headlands or
points.

2) Fringing barrier reefs Emergent reefs adjacent to the shore, but separated from
shore by an open lagoon or channel.

3) Submerged-barrier reefs Submerged fringing reefs that have not developed to
the surface.

4) Patch reef A small circular or irregular reef that rises directly from the bottom
and is distinct from other reef sections. This isolated complex of corals provides
a major change in topography.

5) Shelf edge reef A reef located at the edge of the continental shelf.

The following references provide an inventory and guide to coral reefs in the USVI: Adey et al.
(1977), Garcia Sais (2004), and Gladfelter (1988). For more information on the ecology of coral
reefs in the USVI, see Bythell et al. (1992), Edmunds (1999), Gladfelter and Gladfelter (1978),
Miller et al. (2001), Ogden and Zieman (1977), Roberts (1995), Rogers (1980a, 1982), Rogers et
al. (1997), and UNESCO (1983). Adey (1975, 1998), Adey and Burke (1976), and Edmunds
(2000) provide more detailed information on the structure and distribution of coral reefs in the
USVI.

There are deep reefs around the USVI. Very little is known of these deeper reefs, especially in






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edge (Turgeon et al. 2002). Some have exceptionally high coral cover (Garcia Sais 2004;
Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Because of their slow regeneration rates and limited distribution on the insular platform of Puerto
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, many coral species are extremely vulnerable to unregulated
harvest by commercial and amateur collectors and damage from growing tourist activity.
Furthermore, because of their largely sedentary nature, corals are unable to escape the impact of
a variety of anthropogenic activities, including anchoring, pollution, and damage by fishing gear.

For the following discussion of specific coral reefs in the USVI, please refer to the benthic
habitat maps in Appendix 2 (St. Thomas/St. John-Appendix 2A; St. Croix-Appendix 2B).


St. Croix Coral Reefs

The St. Croix shelf is very different from the northern islands' shelf in that it is much narrower
and shallower, which produces a compression of reef types and also allows less extensive areas
of deep reef communities (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The proximity and shallowness of the
north shore shelf edge reefs has enabled them to be studied relatively extensively whereas the
shelf edge reefs on the north sides of St. Thomas and St. John have not been studied at all
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The shelf edge reef system on St. Croix's north shore runs fairly
continuously from Butler Bay on the west coast to the western end of Long Reef on the north
coast. The shelf edge reef along this shore ranges from several hundred meters to a little over
half a kilometer (- 0.2 to 0.4 miles) from the coastline. Just seaward of the coastline along this
shore lies a zone of hard carbonate pavement followed by mostly dead reef patches encrusted
with living coral (Multer 1974). These have produced an irregular and broken series of wave
resistant spurs. The dominant coral on these structures is A. palmata with scattered growths of
A. cervicornis, P. astreoides, P. porites, D. strigosa, Millepora complanata and others. The
shelf edge reef is dominated by Montastraea annularis with varying amounts of A. agaricites, P.
astreoides, P. porites, Montastraea cavernosa, and other species of hard corals (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). This reef has developed spurs made up of Montastraea annularis sometimes also
having shingle-like layers ofA. agaricites. These spurs alternate with sediment chutes floored
with coarse sand which is being transported off the shelf via these chutes. Coral growth ends at
60 to 70 m (- 200 to 230 ft.) and framework builders are replaced by sclerosponges such as
Ceratoporella nicholsoni (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Adey et al. (1981) stated that "the 4,000 year old eastern and southeastern bank barrier reef of St.
Croix is one of the best developed reef systems in the tropical-Atlantic Caribbean area." Adey et
al. (1981) further stated that "with a length of 23 miles (37 km), it is the most extensive reef on
the Puerto Rican-Virgin Island shelf." Adey et al. (1981) go on to suggest that this reef is the
largest reef structure in U.S. territory, with the possible exception of U.S. controlled Indo-Pacific
island reefs. Detailed maps and reef descriptions for St. Croix may be found in Adey (1975),
Adey and Burke (1976), Adey et al. (1981), and Multer and Gerhard (1974). Also refer to
Appendix 2B.






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The Buck Island National Monument is located 2 km (- 1.25 mi) north of Teague Bay on St.
Croix. Fairleigh Dickinson University's West Indies Laboratory, formerly located on St. Croix,
conducted nearly 20 years of ecological studies that established a baseline for Buck Island Reef
National Monument, as well as other St. Croix sites (Bythell et al. 1992; and Hubbard 1991).
The West Indies Laboratory on St. Croix was destroyed during Hurricane Hugo, in 1989, and
never rebuilt. A barrier reef starts near shore at the southernmost point of Buck Island
(Anderson et al. 1986). This reef forms an arc around the east end of the island, roughly
paralleling the north shore. The crest of this reef is dominated by Millepora spp. The reef then
grades into a contiguous series of patch reefs to the northwest of the island (Goenaga and Boulon
1992). This system of patch reefs extends approximately 2 km (- 1.25 miles) northwest of the
west tip of the island. A. palmata is a major constituent of this reef system. North and east of
the barrier reef system is an extensive coral/gorgonian flat, nearly continuous to the shelf edge
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Several massive A. palmata reefs are emergent at low tide.
Although these reefs are composed of nearly 100% A. palmata, less than 20% of the coral is
actually alive. The evidence of impact from white band disease on this species is strong (Davis
et al. 1986), having reduced once world famous reefs to literal skeletons of their former selves.

While the types of communities surveyed by Davis et al. (1986) have not changed since the
original descriptions in 1977 (Gladfelter et al. 1977), the condition of many of the communities
has been dramatically altered. The lagoon area behind the barrier reef had a rich, live A.
prolifera population in 1977 and now is consolidated A. prolifera rubble with an algal veneer.
The A. palmata reefs show a reduction in live coral cover from nearly 100% in 1977 to only 20%
in 1985. The cause or causes resulting in these dramatic changes are still not well understood
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

A submerged barrier reef extends west of Buck Island, along the length of the north coast narrow
shelf, broken only by Christiansted submarine canyon off Christiansted and the Salt River
submarine canyon off Salt River (Adey et al. 1981). This submerged barrier reef ends near
Annaly Bay. The walls of the Salt River canyon differ markedly in coral cover, possibly the
result of differences in vertical profile and substrate type (Boulon 1979). The east wall ranged
from less than 1% coral cover in the inner portion to 25% coral cover near the shelf edge. The
most common species were Mycetophillia spp., M. annularis, D. strigosa, Agaricia spp., andM.
cavernosa. The west wall is much steeper with solid substrate and ranged from 22% to 59%
coral cover with the most common species being M cavernosa, Agaricia sp., Porites spp., and S.
siderea. Increases in sedimentation from upland sources have undoubtedly decreased coral
growth and cover since this survey was made. The greatest number of coral species (20) was
noted at the west wall of Salt River Canyon where A. agaricities was the dominant coral (Adey
et al. 1981; Gladfelter et al. 1978; Rogers and Salesky 1981; and Rogers et al. 1982, and 1984).

Long Reef extends eastward to Fort Louise Augusta and is described as an emergent bank barrier
reef with an extensive back reef lagoon (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The reef is dominated by
A. palmata, M annularis, Millepora spp., P. porites and others (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
The reef is covered by high densities of algae probably due to eutrophication from human
activities in Christiansted. This and channel dredging activities have reduced the living reef to
less than 30% of the bottom surface. Seaward of this reef the shelf slopes out to the edge with






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The eastern part of Long Reef and Round Reef are described as in a less than "healthy" state
(VIPA 1983). Live coral cover is low (6% to 23%) as compared to other reefs in the area (18%
to 65%). The authors were unable to ascertain whether this is the result of a less than optimal
natural physical environment or human impact. The combination of extremely low live coral
coverage, the prevalence of small colonies, and large amounts of sediment on the deeper reef at
the edge of the Christiansted Canyon all suggest that sedimentation is a major factor limiting reef
growth in this area.

Most of the shoreline east of Long Reef to Teague Bay is fringing reef with scattered bank reefs
dominated by M. annularis (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The Teague Bay reef is about 5 km (-
3 miles) long and is considered the most extensive bank barrier reef on St. Croix (Ogden 1974).
The reef encloses a lagoon about 0.4 km (0.25 mile) wide and averaging 5 m (- 16.4 ft.) deep.
The back reef is dominated by M. annularis, P. porites, and A. palmata. The reef crest receives
heavy wave energy and has a distinct zone ofM. complanata mixed with A. palmata. The fore
reef slopes to the sand channel separating St. Croix from Buck Island. The fore reef is primarily
composed of P. porites, A. cervicornis, M. annularis, and Diploria spp. Main impacts to this
reef system are from coastal and upland development and the increase in sediment input into the
ocean. Anchor damage and boat groundings have also caused reef degradation (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). The percent live coral cover of Long Reef ranges from approximately 12.5% to
19.5% (Nemeth et al. 2003b).

Due to the prevailing wind and wave directions, the east end of St. Croix receives abundant clean
water (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). This has resulted in well-developed coral reefs with little
human impact except for overfishing (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Nearshore are numerous
fringing reefs dominated by A. palmata, and M annularis (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
Offshore the shelf extends eastwards for about 20 km (12.4 miles) and averages 20 to 30 m (65.6
to 98.4 ft.) deep. A submerged reef complex rises to about 10 m (32.8 ft.) in depth along the
seaward edge and is known as Lang Bank, due east of St. Croix (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
The bank is mostly cemented pavement with scattered sponges, gorgonians, and coral heads.
Dominant corals here are Porites spp., Diploria spp., Montastraea spp., and A. cervicornis
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Well developed submerged reefs occur along the outer margins of
the shelf (Nemeth unpubl. data).

The southeastern shore from East Point to Vagthus Point contains discontinuous bank barrier
reefs enclosing shallow bays between rocky points (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). To the west of
Vagthus Point large buttresses, as much as 5 m (16.4 ft.) in height, stand near to shore and reach
to just below the surface (Palm Shores 1987). These buttresses contain large D. labyrinthiformis
heads with diameters of over one meter (3.28 ft.). A. palmata is also found along with Millepora
alcicornis, Millepora complanata, Montastraea annularis, P. astreoides, P. porites, D. cylindrus,
and A. agaricites. Offshore of these structures lie a series of rubble reefs. All of the above listed
corals with the addition ofA. cervicornis occur on these rubble reefs.

On the broad shelf of the eastern and southern areas of St. Croix, numerous patch reefs may be
found (Adey et al. 1981). The southwestern shore from Hess Oil to Sandy Point once contained
relatively good reef development but the dredging of Krauss Lagoon and numerous dredgings of
ship channels have killed most of the nearshore and bank reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The






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shelf is widest at this part of the island and there are numerous, scattered large patch reefs on the
outer portions dominated by M. annularis. Deeper reefs off southwest St. Croix are comprised
of approximately 36% live coral cover (Nemeth et al. 2004a).

Beginning with Airport Reef off Mannings Bay, small reefs occur along the south coast and
merge with the extensive reef formations of the eastern end of the island (Adey et al. 1981).
Based on limited data, live coral cover was lowest in Manning Bay (0% to 4%) and greatest at
Isaac Reef (26.1% to 66.7%) (Tetra Tech 1985b).

The west end of St. Croix is a sand plain with scattered inshore areas of raised pavement
supporting communities of hard corals mixed with gorgonians and sponges (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). Coral reefs are poorly developed from Fredricksted on the west coast to Long
Point on the south coast (Adey et al. 1981).

Near Butler Bay the submerged barrier reef continues to Fredricksted (Adey et al. 1981). The
shelf edge reef system starts off at Butler Bay and extends north towards Hams Bluff (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992). At Hams Bluff, the submerged barrier reef continues to Hams Bay (Adey et
al. 1981).

The percent live coral cover, based on quantitative observations, ranged from a few percent in
areas of the south coast of St. Croix to almost 50% (Adey et al. 1981; Rogers et al. 1983, 1984).
In areas where the coverage of staghorn coral was complete, coverage of 100% was possible
(Tetra Tech 1992).

On St. Croix, the main stress on the shelf edge reef is the frequent anchoring of dive vessels.
Several dive operations and sport divers come here to see the well-developed reef, the many fish,
and to experience the spectacular wall dive (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

In the past, staghorn and elkhorn corals have succumbed to white band disease off St. Croix, as
well as throughout the Caribbean (Gladfelter 1982; and Rogers 1985). This disease of unknown
etiology has killed up to 95% of the elkhom corals off Tague Bay (Peters 1988).

Tropical storms have also impacted coral reefs on St. Croix. Hurricane Hugo struck the U.S.
Virgin Islands in September of 1989, passing directly over St. Croix. Hugo battered St. Croix for
over 12 hours, with a maximum sustained wind of 223 km per hour (- 140 mph) and heavy
rainfall (14.3 cm to 24.5 cm (- 5.6 to 9.6 inches) recorded on St. John), and it devastated
portions of coral reefs and seagrass beds off St. Croix (Gladfelter et al. 1991). Other recent
storms that have affected U.S. Virgin Island reefs include Hurricane David and Tropical Storm
Frederic in 1979, Tropical Storm Klaus in 1984, and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, with Klaus and
David probably the most destructive prior to Hugo (Rogers et al. 1991). Subsequent hurricanes
continue to inhibit reef recovery.






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St. John Coral Reefs

Much of the baseline information for coral reefs in the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP)
comes from a series of reports by the Virgin Islands Resource Management Cooperative from
1983 to 1988 (Turgeon et al. 2002).

Beets et al. (1986) provided a semi-quantitative description of the marine communities of bays
within the Virgin Islands National Park and Biosphere Reserve of St. John that includes
descriptions of coral communities. The percent live coral cover was reported to range from less
than 5% to 70%.

The best developed reefs at that time were Johnson's Reef on the east coast and in Haulover Bay
(Beets et al. 1986). The areas with the greatest coral cover appear to be those that receive the
least terrestrial runoff and/or are exposed to sufficient wave energy to quickly disperse excessive
sediment loads (Hubbard et al. 1987). The most recent estimates of percent live stony coral
cover for a reef on the north side of St. John was 15.6% in 1988 (Tetra Tech 1992). In 1992, live
stony coral coverage was 11.0% for a reef on the south side of St. John and 19.2% for a reef on
the northeast side of St. John (Tetra Tech 1992).

Scattered coral reef formations are found throughout St. John and associated islets and cays
(Kumpf and Randall 1961). Coral reefs off the northern part of the island from the north of Cruz
Bay to East End, and on the south from Drunk Bay to Fish Bay are within the Virgin Islands
National Park administered by the National Park Service. Extensive, well-developed reefs can
be found on the eastern edge of the island along the East End and from Johnson Bay to Rams
Head (Kumpf and Randall 1961).

Approximately 56% of St. John's land area is a National Park (Turgeon et al. 2002). Along with
this, 5,650 acres of submerged lands are also owned and managed by the National Park Service.
While this has provided some protection for the marine resources, inholdings and nearby
development have produced sedimentation in several of the bays under NPS jurisdiction
(Hubbard et al. 1987). From 1983 to 1985 the NPS contracted with a number of local agencies
to survey the marine resources within NPS waters (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). These projects
resulted in fairly detailed reports of the benthic invertebrate and associated fish assemblages
(Beets et al. 1986; and Boulon 1986). Descriptions for coral reefs and communities within the
NPS rely considerably on these reports along with personal observations by R.H. Boulon
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Cruz Bay is the principal harbor and port of entry for St. John and, as such, is the most heavily
utilized bay on the island. A shallow, mostly dead reef extends from the southern point (Gallows
Point) and provides considerable protection for the bay (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). This reef
has been killed due to sedimentation and vessel groundings. Thirty years ago, this reef was very
healthy and good for snorkeling (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Remains ofA. palmata stands can
still be seen. The north side of the bay contains some coral growth on subtidal bedrock with live
cover less than 5% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).






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Solomon and Honeymoon Bays have subtidal bedrock off the points with coral cover of 5% to
10% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The predominant corals are P. porites, A. palmata, A.
cervicornis, S. radians, S. siderea, M. annularis, C. natans, D. clivosa, and D. strigosa. A small
patch of dead upper fore reef is off the southern point of Honeymoon Bay. A few small patches
of A. palmata are surviving among many dead ones. Other corals are present with a live coral
cover of 20% to 25% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Caneel Bay and Scott Beach have patches of subtidal bedrock with low coral cover (less than
5%). Towards the northern point of Scott Beach the coral cover increases to 40% to 50% with
Millepora spp. becoming dominant (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Turtle Bay has a similar
distribution of coral cover on subtidal bedrock with coral cover increasing towards the points
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

The Durloe Cays (Henley, Ramgoat, and Rada) have varying amounts of coral cover around
them on subtidal bedrock (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The exposed northeast parts have higher
cover (40% to 60%) which then decreases towards the southern parts. Some large colonies of A.
palmata exist and D. cylindrus is unusually common around these cays. Other corals here
include D. strigosa, D. labyrinthiformis, D. clivosa, C. natans, and P. porites. Southeast of
Henley Cay are carbonate ridges with high coral cover (60% to 80%) with M. annularis being
dominant. Surrounding all the Cays in deeper water is a zone of gorgonian/coral pavement with
coral cover around 5% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Hawksnest Bay is a deeply indented bay with several types of coral assemblages (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). The eastern and western shores are dominated by subtidal bedrock with low coral
cover (5% to 10%). Four large patches of upper fore reef exist in the southern part of the bay.
These are dominated by A. palmata which provides about 10% live cover. These reefs have been
impacted by sediment runoff from the St. John Clinic at the top of the watershed and by boat
groundings. The western part of the bay has areas of pavement with low coral cover (5% to
10%). These areas are bordered on the seaward side by lower fore reef having coral cover of
25% to 30% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Dennis Bay and Perkins Cay have considerable reef development between them and off the
beach (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Large stands of A. palmata exist on the east and west sides
of the beach with many of the colonies dead and low coral cover (5% to 10%). To the west and
northeast of Perkins Cay the coral cover is higher (15% to 20%) with the dominant corals being
P. astreoides and A. palmata. There is a narrow lower fore reef zone dominated by M. annularis
and 20% to 30% coral cover (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Jumbie Bay has moderate sized patches ofA. palmata which dominate the upper fore reef on the
east and west sides of the bay (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). There is high mortality of A.
palmata in this reef which has resulted in low live cover (5% to 15%). White band disease is
evident here which may explain the mortality. A band of coral colonies stretches between the
upper fore reef patches and is dominated by M. annularis (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Trunk Bay and Trunk Cay have little coral growth (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Most of it is
present on subtidal bed-rock around the cay and eastern point. An underwater trail is located on






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the western side of the cay and has suffered from breakage and abrasion from swim fins and
collection of "souvenirs" by tourists. This trail is an example of the cumulative impact of many
individuals over a long period of time (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Johnson's Reef is an extensive nearly emergent bank reef complex located north of Trunk Bay
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The reef crest is dominated by Millepora spp. (30% to 40% coral
cover) with small dead colonies ofA. palmata, probably from storm damage. The upper fore
reef is impressive with 40% to 50% coral cover dominated by moderate to large colonies of A.
palmata. White band disease has been observed but not common. P. astreoides is abundant in
patches. This reef sustains considerable damage from boat groundings (Rogers and Garrison
2001). The lower fore reef is a narrow band around the platform with M annularis being
dominant and coral cover of 30% to 40% (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Windswept Beach is located on an exposed point protected by a large fringing reef (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). The reef is dominated by A. palmata in relatively good condition. Storm and
vessel damage is evident. During the years from 1982 to 1985, an average of 3 boats per week
grounded on this reef (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). After NPS installed buoys marking the reef,
fewer than one boat per month were observed to hit this reef. Total coral cover here is 30% to
40% with many small colonies of A. palmata growing in the nearshore parts of the reef (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992).

The bays east of Windswept Beach to Mary's Point (Peter, Little Cinnamon, Cinnamon, Maho,
Little Maho, and Francis) have little in the way of reef development (Goenaga and Boulon
1992). Peter Bay has a small patch of healthy A. palmata reef at the western end, but other coral
growth in these bays is on subtidal bedrock or carbonate pavement with low coral cover (less
than 5%). Mary's Point to Leinster Bay is all subtidal bedrock with low coral cover except for
one area of carbonate ridges off the central part of the north shore of Mary's Point that has higher
coral cover (probably 20% to 30%). Whistling Cay off the west end of Mary's Point has a small
pavement area off the south side with scattered corals. The rest of the cay is mostly subtidal
bedrock with corals growing on it (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Mary's Point Creek has several small reef areas at its mouth that have small stands ofA. palmata
and scattered other corals (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay have
several areas of carbonate pavement with scattered corals. Waterlemon Cay has several large
colonies of A. palmata and P. porites on its northwestern side with 10% to 20% coral cover. The
coast east to Brown Bay is mostly subtidal bedrock with encrusting corals. Just east of Thread-
needle Point and Brown Bay is a well-developed fringing reef dominated by A. palmata and
Millepora spp. (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Mennebeck Bay has fringing reefs extending from both points and forming a semi-enclosed bay
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Reef development is diverse and healthy. The reef crests are
dominated by Millepora spp. and the upper fore reef by A. palmata with 25% to 30% coral
cover. The lower fore reef is dominated by M. annularis and P. porites with 35% to 40% coral






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unidentified species, and Stichopathes lutkeni being present. The unidentified species forms
large colonies of 3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13.1 ft.) in crown diameter. There is evidence of some
collection of these corals (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

From the eastern point of Haulover Bay around East End to Red Point are some of the best
developed, healthiest reefs left in the Virgin Islands (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). This stretch of
coast includes Newfound Bay, East End Bay, Privateer Bay, and several small unnamed bays.
These bays all have well developed fringing reefs and extensive areas of lower fore reef sea-
ward of them. The fringing reefs are dominated by A. palmata, Millepora spp., and Porites spp.
The lower fore reefs are dominated by Montastraea spp., Diploria spp., Agaricia spp., and
others. Some of these reefs were affected by the oil spill that originated off St. Marten in 1991,
but are not known to have suffered any mortality. Recent subdivision work in Privateer Bay
threatens to produce sediment runoff which could affect these relatively pristine coral reefs.
Flanagan Island, southeast of Privateer Point, is fringed by subtidal bedrock with encrusting
corals (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Round Bay has little in the way of coral reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The shoreline has
varying amounts of sub-tidal bedrock with encrusting corals. In mid-bay there are a number of
raised patches of carbonate pavement with scattered corals and other organisms. From Hurricane
Hole to Lagoon Point coral growth is limited to growth on subtidal bedrock at the points
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). These bays are deeply indented with substantial amounts of red
mangrove development. Lagoon Point was once a well developed fringing reef with an
extensive backreef flat. There are still some stands ofA. palmata but storm damage and a few
boat wrecks have reduced much of this reef to rubble. The lower fore reef is still relatively
healthy with fairly high coral cover composed of Montastraea spp., Diploria spp., Agaricia spp.,
and others (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

John's Folly Bay has a fringing reef extending off both points (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). This
reef has also suffered considerable storm damage and has few large stands of A. palmata left.
There is a relatively expansive lower fore reef seaward of this bay with good coral cover. Le
Duck Island east of John's Folly is mostly subtidal bedrock and carbonate pavement, both of
which have only scattered corals. Eagle Shoal lies south of Le Duck Island and comes to about 2
m (6.6 ft.) from the surface. This shoal contains many grottos and caves in the boulders that
create this structure. Coral cover is good with head corals predominating. To the west of Eagle
Shoal lies Drunk Bay. This bay is mostly cobble and large subtidal bedrock boulders. However,
there is a fringing reef along the north side of the bay dominated by A. palmata and having 25%
to 30% coral cover. The east side of Ram Head is predominately subtidal bedrock and carbonate
pavement with some lower fore reef along the edge (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

The west side of Ram Head is mostly cobble bottom inshore with a lower fore reef having spur
and groove formations offshore (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Saltpond Bay has low coral cover
(less than 5%) in the bay with high Millepora cover (30% to 35%) on the rocks at the mouth of
the bay. Booby Rock has an extensive, tiered lower fore reef northwest of it with high coral
cover (30% to 40%). Many large colonies of M annularis and C. natans are present (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992).






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Coral communities in Kiddle and Grootpan Bays are primarily on carbonate pavement with
generally low coral cover (less than 5%) (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The west side of
Grootpan Bay has an area of higher cover (up to 20% to 25%) with several large colonies of M
annularis, C. natans, and D. cylindrus. Kiddle Bay has a patch of lower fore reef in the middle
of the bay with 20% to 30% coral cover of whichM. annularis predominates. Off the western
point of Kiddle Bay is a bank patch reef with low relief and total coral cover of 20% to 50%. M.
cavernosa is the dominant coral (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Little and Greater Lameshur Bays contain considerable amounts of subtidal bedrock with coral
cover ranging from less than 5% inshore to 10% to 20% near the points (Goenaga and Boulon
1992). Millepora spp. dominate near the points. Shallow carbonate pavement areas in both
bays contain low coral cover (less than 5%). Little Lameshur has a small area of lower fore reef
on the western side with a coral cover of 15% to 20% dominated by P. porites and M annularis.
In Greater Lameshur, a large area of lower fore reef occurs on the eastern side near the sites of
the Tektite I and II programs during 1969 to 1971 (Clifton et al. 1970; and Clifton and Phillips
1972). Coral cover is 15% to 20% and is primarily M. annularis. This increases to nearly 50%
coral cover in deeper areas of this site (Nemeth et al. 2003b). On the west side of Yawzi Point,
which separates the two bays, coral cover is from 20% to 25% in mid reef and 30% to 40% near
the edge with M annularis dominant. The east side of the point is a coral garden with coral
cover of 35% to 40%. M. annularis predominates with large colonies often forming continuous
complexes. Several large colonies of C. natans and P. porites are also present. Greater
Lameshur Bay had extremely high abundances ofDiadema antillarum prior to the 1983 die-off
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Europa Bay is mostly subtidal bedrock on the points with low coral cover (less than 5%)
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Some small colonies ofA. palmata are present, but this species is
the main contributor to the storm rubble present throughout this bay. There is a narrow reef crest
composed of eroded carbonate mounds with few corals on their tops. The sides are colonized by
Diploria spp., Montastraea spp., Colpophyllia spp., Porites spp., and F. fragum. A patch of
lower fore reef is off the western shore and is dominated by M. annularis (Goenaga and Boulon
1992).

Reef Bay is the largest bay on the south side of St. John (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Both sides
of the bay have exposed reefs which form an incomplete barrier for the shore and back reef
zones. All reef zones in this bay are in relatively good condition except for reef crest and upper
fore reef zones which were severely damaged during Hurricanes David (1979), Frederick (1979),
and Hugo (1989) (Beets 1993; Rogers 1980b; and Rogers et al. 1982, and 1991). The reef crests
are ramparts of A. palmata fragments, the amount of which suggests a previously extensive A.
palmata zone. The western side of the bay is currently experiencing sedimentation due to
residential development using improper construction methods. The back reef on the eastern side
of the bay is wide and contains large, healthy stands of P. porites which have grown to mean low
water. The western back reef is very narrow but healthy with high coral cover (30% to 40%) of
P. porites and P. astreoides (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The fore reef zones in this bay are
primarily carbonate pavement with mounds containing large colonies of M annularis, D.
strigosa, and S. sidereal. A. palmata rubble is abundant. There are several large offshore bank
patch reefs in this area. Just south of White Cliffs is a large patch reef that rises to about 15 m






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(49.2 ft.) from the surface from a sand plain at about 25 m (82.0 ft.). This reef has scattered
corals on top with good coral cover near the edge. Large head corals predominate. South of the
western end of Reef Bay lie several smaller bank patch reefs having low vertical relief but high
coral cover (50% to 60%). A. agaricites is predominant with scattered large colonies of M.
annularis and C. natans. Numerous other species are also present in small amounts (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992).

Eastern Fish Bay is an extension of the western Reef Bay fringing reef system (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992). The reef crest and upper fore reef exhibit similar types and amounts of storm
damage as at Reef Bay. The upper fore reef is barren pavement with all A. palmata having been
stripped off. A few large M. annularis colonies are still present. The lower fore reef is oriented
as a series of spurs and grooves with high coral cover (40% to 60%). The western side of Fish
Bay has an extensive lower fore reef with high coral cover (30% to 40%) dominated by A.
agaricites (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Rendezvous Bay extends from Dittlif Point on the east to Bovocoap Point on the west. Most
coral communities in this bay occur as scattered corals on carbonate pavement or on subtidal
bedrock with low coral cover (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The western side of Rendezvous Bay
has a considerable amount of lower fore reef with moderate coral cover dominated by M.
annularis. This zone extends around Bovocoap Point to Devers Bay. Extending south-west
from Bovocoap Point is a series of raised carbonate ridges with extensive ledges around the
edges. These ridges have low coral cover (less than 5%), most of which is composed of plate-
like colonies of several species of head coral (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

The shoreline from Devers Bay to Cruz Bay is mostly subtidal bedrock and nearshore carbonate
pavement with low coral cover (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Off Moravian Point are several
patches of sub-tidal bedrock which are emergent at low tide. They contain scattered corals with
Millepora spp. predominating. There is some lower fore reef associated with these patches.
Stevens Cay to the west has extensive carbonate pavement surrounding it and a wide zone of
lower fore reef further offshore. The lower fore reef has moderate coral cover with varying
amounts ofM. annularis, A. cervicornis, and Agaricia spp. (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Continued fishing, diving, and heavy boating activities, including anchoring and groundings,
have resulted in continued degradation of NPS marine resources (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
Severe damage to reefs at St. John by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was documented on the basis of
long-term line transect, video transect, and photo-quadrat studies at sites off Yawzi Point, a
rocky point that separates Little and Great Lameshur Bays (Rogers and Miller 2001; and Rogers
et al. 1991). Rogers et al. (1991) found fragmented and overturned coral colonies and a
significant decrease in total living coral cover from about 20% to 12%, with increased coverage
by macroscopic algae and no measurable recovery by the live corals in the 12 months following
the initial post-storm survey. The dominant reef-building coral there, Montastraea annularis,
decreased by 35%. Edmunds and Witman (1991) observed similar levels of patchy destruction
to coral colonies nearby. Tropical storm Klaus (1984) caused a significant reduction in mean
percent live coral cover from 26% to 21% at Fish Bay, St. John (Rogers and Zullo 1987).






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St. Thomas Coral Reefs

Limited information is available on the character and distribution of coral communities in the
coastal waters of St. Thomas (Tetra Tech 1992). The percent live coral cover on reefs where
quantitative observations have been made indicates that coral cover can be as high as 49%
(Rogers et al. 1982, and 1983; and Tetra Tech 1985a). Most of the observations have focused on
coral reef areas along the south coast of the island because of a need to assess this resource to
determine possible impacts of continued human development in the area (IRF 1977b, and 1977c;
and Rogers 1980a, and 1982).

The most extensive reef development in St. Thomas is along a submerged barrier reef that lies
along the narrow shelf edge, beginning near Inner Brass Island and continuing west to the
western end of St. Thomas (Tetra Tech 1991 a). Scattered reef formations occur throughout the
rest of the island and along cays and islets. Based on limited data (Rogers et al. 1983; Rogers
1980a, 1982; and Tetra Tech 1985a), live coral was lowest at Brewers Bay West (15% to 17%)
and greatest at Brewers Bay Middle (33% to 45%). The greatest number of species (26) was
noted at Red Point where the dominant coral species was M. annularis. P. porites was the
dominant species at several reef areas surveyed (Tetra Tech 1991a). Acropora spp. was not the
dominant species at any of the surveyed reef areas (Tetra Tech 1991a).

St. Thomas and St. John have extensive shelf habitats with the shelf being approximately 8 miles
wide on the south and 20 miles wide on the north. Mean shelf-edge coral cover ranges from
37% to 49% (Herzlieb et al., in press). Observations from the Johnson Sea-Link have shown
significant shelf edge reef development on the south side where the shelf edge is better defined
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). On the north, the shelf gradually slopes off into deep water. The
shelf edge south of Saba Island was observed to occur at approximately 60 m depth (- 200 ft.)
and at one site it was comprised of 80% to 100% living coral cover (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
The predominant coral appeared to be M annularis. From observations in January of 1990, a
number of colonies exhibited varying degrees of coral bleaching (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Saba Island and Flat Cay are small uninhabited islands south southwest of the St. Thomas
airport. Flat Cay has very good reef development off its windward (eastern) shore (Rogers
1982), and a submerged fringing reef on the western shore with approximately 16% live coral
cover (Herzlieb et al., in press). Saba Island has a coral reef off its eastern shore, and a fringing
reef on its western shore. From 1978 to 1981 a monitoring study (Rogers 1982) indicated a
significant decrease in living coral cover at Flat Cay, probably due to filling activities at the
airport runway extension and Hurricanes David and Frederic (August 30 to September 5, 1979).
Extensive physical damage to A. palmata was observed about two weeks after these storms
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Surveys in 2003 showed some recovery of Acroporapalmata, A.
cervicornis, andA. prolifera (Nemeth et al. 2004a). In 2004, waves generated by Hurricane
Jeanne reduced much of this new growth to rubble (R. Nemeth personal comm., CMES/UVI).

Around Range Cay and along the eastern shore of Brewers Bay are found scattered corals on






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has been stressed by sand extraction, dredging, and some sewage effluent from the treatment
plant located near the airport. The runway extension for the new airport partly closed the bay
and has resulted in reduced flushing rates (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Perseverance Bay is to the west of Brewers Bay and is the largest bay on the south-western coast
of St. Thomas. Fringing coral reefs exist along the western shore and extreme eastern shore near
Black Point (Nichols and Towle 1977). The seaward reef faces are dominated by A. palmata,
Diploria, Montastraea, Porites, Meandrina, and Agaricia. Signs of stress and attrition were
evident in 1977 in the shallower reef platforms and shoreward portions of all the reefs. The
lowered water quality observed by Nichols and Towle (1977) has improved with stabilization of
bottom sediments in Brewers Bay and may presently be allowing for healthier communities.
However, Perseverance still shows signs of degradation. Many of the reefs in the bay have large
amounts of algae (mostly Halimeda spp.), which is typical of reef systems under stress (Jason
Vasques, USVI DFW Fisheries Biologist III, personal communication). Currently, coral cover in
Perseverance Bay ranges from 9.5% to 15.7% (Herzlieb et al., in press).

To the west of Perseverance Bay and around the west end of St. Thomas, including Kalkun Cay,
West Cay, and Salt Cay, coral communities occur predominantly as scattered corals on
submerged rocks or nearshore carbonate pavement (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Most corals in
these communities are small head corals like Montastraea, Diploria, Siderastrea, etc. Savanna
Island has several fringing reefs along its shoreline and probably also has some deeper reef
formations (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). There is approximately 25% live coral cover off
Savanna Island (Herzlieb et al., in press). Salt Cay has a moderately well-developed spur and
groove reef system (Jason Vasques, USVI DFW fisheries biologist, personal communication).

From Botany Bay to Stumpy Point on the northwest coast of St. Thomas, there is considerable
development of both fringing and deeper bank reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Little to no
work has been done here so descriptions of these reefs are limited to knowledge of the present
conditions and what stresses may be impacting them. The primary natural controlling agent on
reef structure in this area is the occurrence of large swells during the winter months. This level
of energy limits coral growth to encrusting and head forms. Little human-induced stresses in this
area allow for relatively healthy reef communities (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Most of the bays along the north coast of St. Thomas contain varying amounts of fringing reefs
and hard bottom communities with scattered corals (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The rocky
coastlines between the bays support scattered corals growing on the submerged rocks. Varying
degrees of exposure to wave energy from the north determine the coral types and growth forms
present at different sites along this coast. Many of the inshore reefs along this coast are suffering
from sediment runoff and/or nutrient loading from septic runoff during large rainfall events
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The wide insular shelf along this coast can be characterized as
being mostly composed of algal and sand plains with occasional raised carbonate ridges
containing coral/gorgonian communities (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Inner Brass Island has been relatively well studied as a result of potential development on the
island (Williams et al. 1990). Much of the island is surrounded by either hard bottom with
sparse, mixed coral zones comprised of A. palmata, Diploria, P. astreoides, and Millepora. The






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northwest part of the island has several areas of good coral development where the slope is steep
and deep water forms ofMontastraea, Diploria, and others are abundant. The east side of the
island receives considerable wave energy. Tyre Bay contains an extensive shallow-water
Montastraea community inshore and dead A. palmata that most likely was killed by white band
disease. Outer Brass Island is surrounded by deep water and coral growth is limited to subtidal
rock surfaces and some hard bottom.

To the east, Hans Lollik Island has received considerable attention due to a very large proposed
hotel/residential resort development (Tamarind Resort Assoc. 1991). Reefs surrounding this
island include deep water, fringing, and patch reefs. An extensive fringing reef system borders
almost the entire eastern shoreline, while the inner portion of Tamarind Bay contains small patch
reefs. Along the eastern shore of the island, the fringing reef has created a channelized deep reef
and reef wall, with a narrow lagoon inshore that is full of patch reefs and A. palmata flats. The
northwest side of the island is mostly corals growing on subtidal bedrock and mixed coral/gor-
gonian flats. Deep bank reefs occur along the outer edge of the gorgonian flats on the southwest
portion of the island. They also occur extensively on the fringe of the eastern gorgonian flats and
extend to the north tip of Little Hans Lollikand Pelican Cay. Around the island, subtidal bedrock
communities are dominated by Diploria spp., Faviafragum, and Millepora spp. The patch reefs
are comprised ofM. annularis, M. cavernosa, P. porites, Agaricia spp., Diploria spp., Isophyllia
sinuosa, Faviafragum, S. radians, and D. stokesi. The deep bank reefs here are mostly
composed of gorgonians with few hard corals (Diploria spp., Montastraea spp., Faviafragum,
and A. cervicornis). Little Hans Lollik and Pelican Cay are surrounded primarily by coral
encrusted subtidal bedrock and gorgonian flats.

Magens Bay on the north coast is a deeply indented bay. Extensive buttressed fringing reefs on
the south side of the bay are mostly dead (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). This is most likely due to
sediment runoff and septic loading of the soil which leaches into the water during large rainfall
events (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Residential development on the north shore of St. Thomas
has skyrocketed during the past 20 years. The north side of the bay experiences heavy sediment
loading from recent residential development, and when there are strong waves from northern
swells. The north side of Magens Bay has scattered reef development on carbonate benches
along the shore. Some of these reef areas are very healthy with the predominant corals being M.
annularis, Diploria spp., Porites spp., and some A. cervicornis. These areas do not appear to
have been affected much by the water conditions on the other side of the bay (Goenaga and
Boulon 1992).

Mandahl Bay, to the east of Magens Bay, has suffered some of the consequences of dredging and
groin construction in the late 1960s (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Present day reefs include a
hard bottom area off the mouth of the channel created by the groins. This area has scattered A.
palmata, A. cervicornis, Montastraea spp., and others (Mandahl Bay Villas 1990). The western
part of the bay contains scattered small corals on rocky ledges.

Most of the shoreline east of Mandahl Bay to Sapphire Bay is composed of rocky coastline with
a few beaches (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Coral communities along this stretch are limited to






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1992), with a fringing reef around Coki Point. Several Porites patch reefs in southern Water Bay
were destroyed by dredging activities in the 1960s and 1970s (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

A line of islands stretch to the northeast and include Thatch, Grass, Mingo, Lovango, and Congo
Cays, and Carvel Rock. The north sides of these islands are bordered by deep water and only
support scattered coral colonies on the subtidal bedrock (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The south
sides have several deeper fringing reef areas and scattered corals on carbonate pavement. A
submerged rock formation to the east of Lovango Cay has a relatively healthy veneer of corals
growing on it. Strong currents here provide clean, food-rich water for these benthic organisms
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Sapphire Bay (Red Bay) once had a very healthy reef around Prettyklip Point but was destroyed
by dredging and removal of beachrock which has resulted in increased water turbidity (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992). Broken shafts of A. palmata up to eight feet long are now cemented into the
existing reef (Sapphire Beach Hotel and Marina 1984). Small Acropora spp. and Diploria spp.
occur offshore on submerged bedrock outcrops.

Vessup Bay on the east end of St. Thomas has fringing reefs along the north side of the bay
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). These reefs are composed ofM. annularis, D. labyrinthiformis,
Porites spp., A. agaricites, S. sidereal, and A. cervicornis. Many dead Montastraea and Diploria
skeletons are found here with live coral cover being less than 10% (V.I. Port Authority 1988).
The long history of dredging and heavy vessel traffic in this bay has taken a serious toll on these
reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The south side of Vessup Bay has coral growth on subtidal
bedrock around Cabrita Point.

Great Bay on the south side of Cabrita Point has scattered fringing reefs which are relatively
healthy, but increasing development in this bay will almost certainly have an effect on them
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The south side of the bay near Current Cut has extensive reef
growth on pavement. Large colonies of M. annularis and Diploria spp. predominate. The
channel between St. Thomas and Great St. James Island is composed of dense coral/gorgonian
communities due to strong tidal currents flowing between the islands.

Most of the coral communities around the St. James islands and Dog Island are scattered corals
on subtidal bedrock with some hardbottom areas (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Whelk Rocks to
the east of the channel between the St. James islands and Cow and Calf Rocks south of Deck
Point, St. Thomas are boulder piles with encrusting corals (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Except for the barrier reef areas between Cas Cay and Patricia Cay, and Patricia Cay and Long
Point, most of the south shore of St. Thomas is scattered coral communities on carbonate
pavement (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Most of these occur adjacent to shore but some occur as
raised patches offBenner Bay and south and east of Dog Island. Seahorse Cottage Shoal,
southeast of St. Thomas, has a significantly higher percent cover of living coral (-50%) and
lower percent cover of dead coral covered with turf algae than does Flat Cay (-16% live coral
cover), southwest of St. Thomas (Nemeth et al. 2004a; and Herzlieb et al., in press). It is
difficult to attribute these differences to a specific cause. Both are mid-shelf reefs. Coral cover






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water). The reef at Flat Cay is associated with a small island, while Seahorse Cottage Shoal is
not, and Seahorse Cottage Shoal is at a greater depth than Flat Cay. Also, Flat Cay is frequently
visited by recreational divers, while Seahorse Cottage Shoal is not. Given the position of Flat
Cay southwest of heavily developed and industrial areas of St. Thomas (Charlotte Amalie, Krum
Bay, Lindbergh Bay, and the Cyril E. King Airport), direction of current flow (south southwest),
and differences in percent coral and algal cover between Flat Cay and Seahorse Cottage Shoal,
Flat Cay may be considerably impacted by terrigenous stresses despite the reef s mid-shelf
location (Nemeth et al. 2004a).

Coral encrusted boulder reefs occur at Triangle reefs east of Charlotte Amalie Harbor (Goenaga
and Boulon 1992). Several small fringing reefs occur at Bolongo Bay and around Green Cay
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The barrier reefs which form the southern arm of the Benner Bay
Mangrove Lagoon have suffered storm damage but still have relatively high live coral cover.
The reef crests are emergent at low tides and extensive backreef habitat is present. The upper
fore reefs are composed primarily ofA. palmata. The channel between Patricia Cay and Long
Point has the remains of once healthy Porites reef flats. This channel to Inner Mangrove Lagoon
was closed/obstructed after Hurricane Lenny in 1999. It was re-opened in 2003 by DFW, which
will improve water circulation/exchange in the Inner Mangrove Lagoon (Ruth Gomez, USVI
DFW fisheries coordinator, personal communication). Dredging for sand extraction in the 1960s
may have killed this reef (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Buck Island (off St. Thomas, not St. Croix) is mostly surrounded by coral encrusted subtidal
bedrock (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The north side of the island has some relatively well-
developed reefs, especially on the northeast end. This area is used by the Atlantis Submarine for
its underwater tours. It is not known what effect, if any, this may be having on the reefs here.

Charlotte Amalie Harbor has nothing in the way of reef development (Goenaga and Boulon
1992). If it ever did, it would have been seriously impacted due to dredging, sewage disposal,
cruise ships, etc. There are some deeper coral communities along the south and west shores of
Hassel Island, which appear to be just out of the turbid water conditions inside the harbor
(Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Water Island has little in the way of coral reefs around it (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). Most of
the coastline is rocky with scattered hard coral attached to the subtidal portions of the rocks.
However, the southwest side has some reef, though it has been affected by turbid water from
Crown Bay (Barbara Kojis, Director USVI DFW, personal communication). Along the
southeastern shoreline, from approximately 5 m to 20 m (16.4 ft to 65.6 ft) in depth, there is a
deep, buttressed reef formation with high living coral cover. The dominant coral on the
buttresses is M annularis. Sprat Bay on Water Island has relicts of a fringing reef on the
northern side of the bay (mostly dead now) and live A. palmata on the southern side of the bay
(Jason Vasques, USVI DFW Fisheries Biologist III, personal communication). Also, Sprat Bay
and Honeymoon Bay are good Thalassia beds with juvenile Nassau grouper.

St. Thomas coral reefs were also impacted by tropical storms. Hurricane Hugo (1989) damaged
portions of coral reefs and seagrass beds off St. Thomas, but quantitative observations are
lacking (Aubrey et al. 1991; and Gladfelter et al. 1991).






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(3) Priority Issues Concerning USVI Coral Reefs

Reefs face a wide range of natural and human threats (Endean 1976; Kuhlmann 1988; and
Rogers 1985). Reef habitat can be damaged or destroyed by natural events: storms, hurricanes,
exposure from extreme low tides, salinity changes, and unusually warm or cold water. During
the 1982-1983 El Nifio event, for example, unusually high surface water temperatures killed as
much as 51% to 95% of the corals at some eastern Pacific reefs (Glynn et al. 1988). Natural
diseases and red tides can kill corals (Bunkley-Williams and Williams 1990). Excessive or
prolonged turbidity, whether from natural or anthropogenic sources, can be a major problem for
reefs (Bohnsack 1992).

The effects of human activities on reefs broadly depend on two factors: the distance of the reefs
from shore (inshore or offshore), and the general health of the reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, anthropogenic damage is being done to reefs at both inshore and
offshore areas: on the shelf edge, Long Reef, Teague Bay reef, St. Croix; Brewers Bay, north
coast, Mandahl Bay, Magens Bay, Sapphire Bay, St. Thomas; bays in the national park, Cruz
Bay, Trunk Bay, Johnson's Reef, and Windswept Beach, St. John.

Damage to reefs around the islands, and, by extension, organisms closely associated with reef
habitats, is being caused by one or several of the following factors (Goenaga and Boulon, 1992):
sedimentation and siltation; eutrophication; pollution (toxic and thermal); physical damage, and
overfishing. According to the National Coral Reef Action Strategy (NOAA 2002), the main
threats to coral reefs in the USVI are diseases, tropical storms, coastal development and runoff,
coastal pollution, fishing, and damage caused by ships, boats, and groundings.


Natural Stressors

Damage to coral reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands due to natural phenomena has been well
documented. A large portion of the Caribbean lies within the hurricane belt and therefore reefs
are frequently exposed to severe hurricane related impacts. Hurricanes can modify substantial
portions of shallow reefs. Two tropical storms in 1979 (David and Frederic) caused extensive
damage on the outer east coast and southern coastal reefs, especially in the shallow Acropora
palmata zone, off St. Croix (Rogers et al. 1982). Hurricane Hugo caused a significant reduction
in total living scleractinian cover on reefs on the south side of St. John (Rogers 1992). It
devastated portions of coral reefs and seagrass beds off St. Croix (Gladfelter et al. 1991) prior to
the onset of white band disease which killed up to 95% of the branching acroporid species, the
dominant shallow-water corals. On the other hand, hurricanes may have been beneficial by
displacing large numbers of fast growing, branching, coral species that monopolize the substrate
thereby freeing space for slower growing, massive species. This appears to result in an increase
in species diversity (Connell 1978), in the absence of additional stresses.

Bioerosion also constitutes a significant problem for Caribbean reefs. The proportion of reefs
containing boring bivalves per coral head is higher in Caribbean reefs than in coral reefs in the
Indian Ocean or in the western Pacific region (Highsmith 1980). Besides being a problem in






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itself, bioerosion may be an indicator of poor coral reef or ecosystem health. In other words,
many boring worms occur in areas of higher pollution and on corals that are damaged or in poor
condition (Jason Vasques, USVI DFW Fisheries Biologist III, personal communication).
Bioerosion of living coral versus dead skeleton under living tissue does not necessarily reduce
reef growth, however, unless it weakens live coral colonies which can be dislodged during storm
events. Although hard corals, coralline algae, and other marine invertebrates secrete calcium
carbonate reef material, natural and man-made forces continue to erode these substrates. Reports
on the status of the Florida Reef Tract, for example, indicate that accretion and erosion processes
may, at best, be in equilibrium (Norris and Wheaton 1991). Therefore, additional pressure on
coral and reefs through fishing practices and other anthropogenic activities could result in net
loss of these resources over time.

Coral diseases are also known to attack reef corals in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Bythell et al. 1993;
Jolles et al. 2002; and Miller et al. 2003b). White band disease, for example, has caused
population declines in A. palmata andA. cervicornis. This disease affected over 5 ha. (-12.4
acres) of the A. palmata reef at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix (Davis et al.
1986; Gladfelter, 1982; and Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The black band disease, caused by
cyanobacteria, has been observed to affect corals in the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John
and Buck Island, St. Croix (Edmunds 1991; Peters, 1984; and Rogers and Teytaud 1988). A
study of coral diseases for St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix can be found in Nemeth et al.
(2002, and 2004a).

The massive die-offs of the black sea urchin, Diadema antillarum (Lessios et al. 1984), a major
herbivore of coral reef systems, throughout the Caribbean have also contributed to the
modification of corals and the coral reef habitat (Carpenter 1990a, 1990b; Edmunds and
Carpenter 2001; Lessios 1988; Levitan 1988; Miller et al. 2003a; Sammarco et al. 1974; and
Vicente and Goenaga 1984). Individuals of this herbivorous species clear the substrate of fast-
growing, fleshy and filamentous algae, allowing coral larvae to settle and grow. Algal biomass
within coral reefs has increased following the urchin die-offs. If other herbivores do not increase
concomitantly, the growth in algal biomass is likely to increase the availability of algal
propagules, thereby potentially reducing substrate for coral settlement (Carpenter 1986; Hay
1984; Hughs et al. 1987; and Ogden and Zieman 1977). This situation is possibly worsened in
eutrophic areas (excess nutrient enrichment, i.e., sewage, agricultural runoff, etc.) where algal
growth is further stimulated (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

Another recent source of stress to Caribbean reefs is massive coral bleaching (i.e., expulsion of
zooanthellae or their in situ degeneration) whereby coral growth rates are slowed down, and the
capacity to heal from wounds is possibly impaired. Events of this nature occurred Caribbean-
wide in 1987 and 1990 (Goenaga and Canals 1990; and Williams et al. 1987). National Park
staff on St. John observed bleaching in several hard coral species and in Palythoa in October of
1987. Diploria labyrinthiformis and D. strigosa were the most affected species and Agaricia
lamarcki colonies as deep as 27 m (-88.5 ft.) were observed to have been bleached (Rogers and
Teytaud 1988; see also Bythell et al. 1992; Edmunds 1994; Porter et al. 1989; Quinn and Kojis
1999; Rogers and Miller 2001; and Williams et al. 1987). During the El Nifio year of 1998,
some corals showed signs of bleaching, with the worst affected colonies showing signs of






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recovery within 6 months (Nemeth and Sladek-Nowlis 2001). Studies elsewhere in the
Caribbean suggest that bleachings have been more severe in polluted areas.


Anthropogenic Stressors

Human activities can directly or indirectly damage reefs. Direct physical damage may occur by
diver contact, anchor damage (Davis 1977), vessel groundings (Gittings et al. 1988; Rogers
1985; and Rogers et al. 1988a), and fishing methods that use explosives, chemicals, and trawls.
Even lost fishing gear can damage reefs. Indirect effects may be more subtle but no less
damaging. Events like oil spills and other types of pollution too numerous to treat in detail here
may weaken or kill reef organisms (Glynn et al. 1989; and Kuhlmann 1988). Coastal
development that destroys or degrades critical coastal habitats such as estuaries, mangroves, and
seagrass beds is a major problem (Chambers 1991). In many areas, human activities change the
nature of terrestrial runoff which can damage reefs. For example, excessive nutrients from
sewage or agriculture may allow algal growth to overwhelm corals. Runoff damage can also
occur from pesticides, herbicides, turbidity, and low salinity. Hudson (1981) noted that declines
in coral growth were correlated with increased dredge and fill operations in the Florida Keys.

Synergistic interactions between factors can increase the damage. For example, coral
populations that survived hurricane damage in Jamaica later collapsed from coral predation
(Knowlton et al. 1990). Also, natural diseases may be much more damaging and widespread if
corals are stressed by pollution. Human activities combined with unusually warm water
temperatures may have contributed to the Caribbean-wide die-off (in 1983) of the sea urchin,
Diadema antillarum (Lessios et al. 1984), and to the greater levels of coral bleaching due to
chronic stressors such as sedimentation (Nemeth and Sladek-Nowlis 2001).

Potentially, the greatest benefits for reef protection are likely to come from managing human
activities that cause damage; little can be done to prevent natural damage. Protecting habitat
from direct damage is necessary but may not be sufficient if resident reef populations are
depleted by fishing activities (Bohnsack 1992). An essential part of any habitat is the presence
and interactions of resident fishes. Fisheries exploitation can reduce species abundance, alter
species composition, and change biological interactions. Absence or reduced numbers of certain
life stages or species, especially predators, could potentially disturb natural balances (Bohnsack
1992).

Fishing activities are probably the least acknowledged and the most often overlooked human
threat to reefs. The importance of fishing activities is probably underestimated, both because
fishing is considered an acceptable use of reef resources, and because the effects of exploitation
are often indirect and poorly understood (Bohnsack 1992).

Numerous protected areas have been established world-wide to protect reefs and reef-associated
habitats. Although most protected marine areas prohibit certain types of fishing, especially
extremely damaging methods, most still allow some fishing (Bohnsack 1992). The underlying






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maintain adequate community balance and to protect a sufficient number of adults as sources of
larvae for recruitment (Bohnsack 1992).

According to Rogers and Beets (2001), the large number of marine protected areas (MPAs) in
the Caribbean (over 100) gives a misleading impression of the amount of protection the reefs and
other marine resources in this region are receiving (Rogers and Beets 2001). Information on
marine resources in two of the first MPAs established in the USA, the Virgin Islands National
Park (1962) and Buck Island Reef National Monument (1961), provides compelling evidence
that greater protection is needed (Rogers and Beets 2001). Most of the stresses affecting marine
resources throughout the Caribbean (e.g., damage from boats, hurricanes, and coral diseases) are
also causing deterioration in these MPAs. Living coral cover has decreased and macroalgal
cover has increased. Seagrass densities have decreased because of storms and anchor damage.
Intensive fishing in the USVI has caused loss of spawning aggregations and decreases in mean
fish size and abundance. Groupers and snappers are far less abundant and herbivorous fishes
comprise a greater proportion of samples than in the early 1960s. Effects of intensive fishing are
evident even within MPA boundaries. These MPAs have not been effective because an
unprecedented combination of natural and human factors is assaulting the resources, some of the
greatest damage is from outside the control of park managers (e.g. hurricanes), and enforcement
of the few regulations has been limited. Fully functioning MPAs which prohibit fishing and
other extractive uses (e.g. no-take marine reserves) could reverse some of the degradation,
allowing replenishment of the fishery resources and recovery of benthic habitats (Rogers and
Beets 2001).

Goenaga (1991) identified several anthropogenic sources of stress to Caribbean coral reefs. The
following text briefly discusses the primary sources of environmental stress that may impact
coral reefs in coastal waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

1) Oil pollution and dispersants The impacts of oil pollution on coral reefs have
been reviewed by Loya and Rinkevich (1987). These authors reported that
although earlier studies had suggested that oil pollution had negligible effects on
coral reefs, more recent research has indicated that acute (Jackson et al. 1989) and
chronic (Bak 1987; and Loya 1976b) exposure to oil pollution can be detrimental
to coral reefs. Oil spills are a concern on St. Croix, where one of the largest oil
refineries (Hovensa) in the Western Hemisphere is located, and in busy harbors
such as Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.

2) Siltation, groundwater contamination, and surface runoff The principal concerns
in the U.S. Virgin Islands are siltation and sedimentation following removal of
upland vegetation, and eutrophication, particularly in, although not necessarily
restricted to, areas adjacent to inshore reefs (Goenaga and Boulon 1992). The
turbidity associated with increased sediment load shades corals which require
light for their algal symbionts (zooxanthellae), thus reducing productivity and
growth. The metabolic cost to the coral of clearing away sediment is also a factor
influencing growth, because of sediment resuspension (Rogers 1990). Sediment
loading may also influence the incidence of coral diseases (Peters 1984) and coral
bleaching rates (Nemeth and Sladek-Nowlis 2001). Sedimentation also reduces






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substrate availability for the settlement of coral and other larvae. Turbidity has
clearly been shown to influence fish abundance and diversity; in the Pacific, both
were significantly reduced in areas with fine sediments, where these were allowed
to accumulate (Amesbury 1981; see also Hubbard et al. 1987; and Loya 1976a).

Chronic sedimentation may reduce the abundance and diversity of corals and
other reef organisms, increase coral stress and susceptibility to diseases, bleaching
and predation, and reduce the ability of corals and other reef organisms to recover
and regenerate after natural disturbances such as hurricanes (Acevedo and
Morelock 1988; Rogers 1990; Rice and Hunter 1992; and Nemeth and Sladek-
Nowlis 2001).

Land-use practices such as upland clearing of vegetation and urban development
may also increase the runoff of nutrients (fertilizers) and other contaminants (e.g.,
pesticides and metals) and contaminate groundwater that is discharged to coastal
zones. Nutrients enhance the growth of algae that compete with corals for space
on the reef and influence coral larval recruitment (Birkeland 1977). Tomascik
and Sander (1987) suggested that groundwater contamination in Barbados could
be partly responsible for the impacts of eutrophication on coral reef areas
observed along the shore (see Lewis 1985). Exposure of corals and associated
biota to pesticides and other contaminants may result in toxic or sublethal impacts
depending on the concentrations and duration of exposure.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands siltation from heavy housing development on the north
coast of St. Thomas is a matter of concern in the area, although little data is
available on point and non-point source sediment loading in the USVI.
Mitigation of the negative impacts of increased sedimentation is possible and is an
important part of soil conservation practice (Tetra Tech 1992).

3) Wastewater discharge The impact of wastewater discharges on coral has been
reviewed by Pastorok and Bilyard (1985) and Marszalek (1987). Impacts include
effects due to turbidity, sedimentation, enhancement of algal growth, increased
risk of coral disease, and toxic effects. Marszalek (1987) concluded that the toxic
effects of municipal wastewater were overshadowed by the indirect effects of
nutrient loading. However, effluent from Caribbean industries (e.g., rum
manufacture, petroleum, and pharmaceutical industries) is discharged to coastal
waters and may have toxic effects on coral reef biota.

Eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) by sewage disposal or land drainage can
stimulate algal blooms which will outcompete or displace slower-growing
organisms, such as corals. This can result in the proliferation of organisms that
compete with, or damage, corals (e.g., burrowing bivalves and boring algae and
sponges). Sewage pollution is known to stress reefs in the Virgin Islands (Rogers
1985; and Goenaga and Boulon 1992).






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4) Dredging The impact of dredging on coral reefs has been reviewed by Salvat
(1987). Adverse impacts can result from increased sedimentation and pollutants
contained in dredged material. Dredging activities to remove sand or bedrock not
only result in siltation and increased turbidity, but also cause mechanical damage
to reefs or complete substrate removal. Moreover, waters over dredged areas
have significantly more bacteria than neighboring seawater (Galzin 1981). In
Benner Bay, St. Thomas, toxic materials were resuspended into the water column
during dredging where toxic metals from anti-fouling paints had leached into the
water and adsorbed onto bottom sediments; metals may be detrimental to corals
by impairing their physiological processes and possibly by weakening the
structure of the aragonite skeleton (Howard and Brown 1984). CZM requires
monitoring of dredging activities in waters of the Virgin Islands (see Cox et al.
2000; Grigg and VanEepoel 1970; IRF 1993b; Rogers 1990; and Tetra Tech
1991a).

5) Toxic and thermal pollution Toxic and thermal pollution derive from
agricultural, industrial, and residential origin and include toxins, biological
pathogens, sediments, and thermal inputs (Tetra Tech 1992). The discharge of
heated effluent from power plants can result in temperature stress to corals in the
vicinity of the discharge and possible toxic effects due to the use of biocides to
control bio-fouling (Goenaga 1991). Pollution by fecal bacteria and viral agents
from inadequate sewage disposal practices can impact the reef environment and
pose serious health hazards in coastal waters. A serious source of impairment of
waterbodies in the U.S. Virgin Islands is NPDES-permitted (National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System) effluents. The majority of these effluents are
from Secondary Treatment Plants (STPs) (Tetra Tech 1992). In the Tutu
watershed on St. Thomas, the secondary sewage treatment plant was replaced
with a tertiary treatment plant which discharges offshore. Also on St. Thomas,
the Cyril E. King Airport primary sewage treatment plant is being upgraded to a
secondary treatment facility. On St. John, the old sewage treatment plant with a
larger secondary plant that discharges offshore. Coastal pollution seriously
impacts nearshore reef areas and the communities and habitats associated with
them.

6) Recreational activities The impact of recreational activities on coral reefs has
been reviewed by Tilmant (1987). Impacts include boat groundings, anchor
damage, pollution associated with on-board waste disposal, accidental discharge
of petroleum products, and damage to the reef caused by careless snorkelers and
scuba divers (Dixon et al. 2001; Garabou et al. 1998; Hawkins et al. 1999;
Plathong et al. 2000; Rouphael and Inglis 1995, and 1997; Rogers et al. 1988a;
and Talge 1990, and 1992). Anchor damage, primarily due to recreational
boating activity, has been cited as a significant source of damage to coral reefs in
some areas of the Caribbean (Goenaga 1991).

Anchoring on top of corals can seriously disrupt coral reef communities and is a
serious concern as boating and tourism increase in reef areas (Allen 1992).






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Between January and March 1987, Rogers et al. (1988a) studied anchor damage
in several northern and northwestern bays on St. John. Of the 186 boats surveyed,
32% were anchored in seagrass and 14% in coral. With an estimated 30,000
anchors being dropped in Park waters each year, this can result in considerable
physical disruption of these areas (see Garrison 1993; and Link 1997).

Anchor chains can do more damage than anchors as they drag across the bottom.
In 1989, a 440 ft. sailing cruise ship, the "Wind Spirit" dropped its anchor on a
reef off northern St. John and destroyed some 300 m2 (-3,200 ft.2) of coral reef
(Rogers and Garrison 2001). Extensive tourism activities, including boating and
diving, are resulting in considerable damage from anchors and boat groundings.
At Windswept Reef on the north shore of St. John, an average of five boats per
week were striking the reef prior to installation of marker buoys, which
considerably reduced the frequency of groundings (Goenaga and Boulon 1992).

7) Ship grounding-propeller scour Groundings of large commercial vessels occur
on occasion, causing significant physical damage to coral reefs. A ship grounding
off Bermuda in 1978 directly damaged about 44.0 ha (108.7 acres) of reef area
(Smith 1985). Groundings may also be associated with accidental releases of
pollutants such as diesel fuel and oil. Commercial shipping activity in shallow
urban and industrial port centers also resuspends sediment due to propeller scour.
The reduced light availability and increased sediment loading may contribute to
the coral reef degradation observed in these areas (Tetra Tech 1991b). In
addition, abandoned vessels and hurricane-damaged vessels that are now derelict
and half sunken around the island can also impact reefs, seagrass beds, and
mangroves.

8) Destructive fishing methods The use of various harvest methods in reef areas
can cause direct physical damage to reef structure and can reduce the percentage
cover of live coral (Russ 1991). For example, careless use of barrier nets to
capture fish, the use of crowbars or other tools to remove substrate and live-rock,
manual displacement of coral heads to collect organisms underneath, and the use
of chemicals, all threaten to damage the reef and reef-associated organisms
(Sadovy 1991). Harvest of live-rock directly removes substrate and invertebrate
communities with the additional problem of inadvertent inclusion of young coral
colonies. Reduction of coral and reef heterogeneity due to damage or removal of
physical structure can seriously impact available shelter for juvenile fishes and
larval settlement, and a number of studies have shown a correlation between
topographic relief and fish abundance (Carpenter et al. 1981).

9) Overfishing The effects of overfishing on reef community structure, and thereby
on the condition of the reefs themselves, are little understood. However, a habitat
must include a reasonable balance of resident organisms in order to function.






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Community imbalances in reef-associated organisms may result from large-scale
reduction in cover or structural heterogeneity of live coral or other substrate, or
from overfishing of certain components of the commercial fishery. For example,
Carpenter et al. (1981) showed that biomass of fishes increased with greater
structural diversity of the substrate. Work by Hughes et al. (1987) in Jamaica
indicated that increasing fishing pressure on coral reef herbivores, such as
parrotfish, may account for observed increases in algal biomass which, in turn,
reduces living invertebrate cover. Reef herbivores may reduce the abundance of
certain competitively superior algae, thus allowing corals and cementing coralline
algae to survive (Birkeland 1977; and Ogden and Lobel 1978).

Hay (1984) suggested that overfishing and hunting of herbivores in the Caribbean
(fishes, green sea turtles, and manatees) may have caused disruptions in the
abundance and the impact of unharvested herbivores (the sea urchin Diadema
antillarum). Ogden et al. (1973) suggested that the high densities of D.
antillarum in St. Croix could have been due to overfishing of the reefs. Carpenter
(1990a, 1990b) demonstrated that D. antillarum was a key species of control of
benthic algal biomass, productivity, and species composition, and Sammarco
(1980) discussed the importance of grazing by D. antillarum to juvenile corals.

The importance ofD. antillarum to reef communities can be inferred by changes
in reef structure that occurred following a sudden Caribbean-wide mortality of a
large portion of these urchins. This resulted in increased abundances and biomass
of benthic algae (Carpenter 1988). Because benthic algae compete with corals for
available substrata, increased abundance of benthic algae could impact the whole
reef community structure.

According to the management guide for coral reef protected areas (U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
2000), coral reef MPA managers should assess and, as needed and feasible, address the
following:

1) Harvesting activities decline of populations and loss of higher level carnivores
within the ecosystem from overharvest, physical damage from fishing gear and
techniques.

2) Recreational use anchor and diver damage to corals, disturbance of reef
organisms, pollution of the reef environment.

3) Water pollution various impacts ranging from loss of light to nutrient changes,
direct toxicity to marine organisms, and disease introductions.

4) Coastal development increased sedimentation, altered upland runoff and nutrient
input to the reef system, loss of juvenile nursery habitat.






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(4) USVI Coral Reef Monitoring

Long-term monitoring programs have been established on several reefs around the USVI by the
USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife and scientists from the National Park Service (NPS),
University of the Virgin Islands, and other agencies. These include: habitat survey project, coral
reef monitoring project, and Reef Check. These programs will allow scientists to differentiate
between changes on the reefs which are occurring because of human activities and those which
are from natural processes.

Various habitat surveys have been and are being done in the USVI (DFW 1994b; Kojis et al.
2000; Volson 2001). The objectives of habitat survey projects are to identify and determine the
status of habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and algal plains, which support
recreationally important fishes in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The habitats supporting recreational
fish species in the USVI are generally fragile (Appeldoorn et al. 1997). As such, there is a need
to assess the current state of these resources, monitor any changes, and establish long-term
management strategies to ensure their sustainability. This is particularly true of the deeper water
shelf habitats of the Virgin Islands, which have not been studied as much as the shallower reefs.
NOAA has produced maps of nearshore habitats (see Appendix 2) based on aerial photography,
however use of aerial photography to map and define benthic habitat is depth limited (- 20 m, or
66 ft., in clear tropical waters; less in turbid bays and nearshore areas) (Kendall et al. 2001).
Characterizing the deeper water shelf habitats can be done with technologies such as side scan
sonar (Geophysics International 2003; and Hatchette 2001).

A variety of coral reef monitoring projects have been recently completed or are ongoing (see
Nemeth et al. 2002, 2004a; Toller 2002, 2004; and Herzlieb et al., in press). In 2001, the USVI
Territorial government initiated a long-term monitoring program of coral reefs with financial
support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This program
will help establish a baseline condition of coral reefs and fish populations for determining the
effectiveness of various management initiatives on the sustainability of these important
resources. As an example of this, fish communities were surveyed on St. Croix in 2004 using
two census methods (Toller 2004). The first was the belt transect method of Brock (1954) as
described by Nemeth et al. (2004a). The second fish census method was the Roving Diver
Survey (Kimmel 1985b; and Kramer and Lang 2003). On St. Croix, eight sites were surveyed
between June 24 and August 24, 2004. The same eight sites were surveyed in 2003 (Nemeth et
al. 2004a), and five of these were surveyed in 2002 as well (Toller 2002).

The last fisheries stock assessment for the USVI was conducted 12 years ago (Appeldoorn et al.
1992) and harvest patterns have changed in the interim. However, bio-statistical data from USVI
commercial fisher port sampling program have been collected for reef fish landings on St. Croix
for over 20 years (Brandon 1985; DFW 1994a; and Tobias 1982, 1985, 1991, and 1993). This
under-utilized database could be used to focus sampling and analytical efforts towards targeted
fish species (Toller 2004).

More recently, Reef Check surveys were completed on St. Thomas (Hodgson 2001; and Vasques
2003). As part of a grant to assess benthic habitats in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Division of
Fish and Wildlife (DFW) employed the Reef Check protocol to survey habitat, invertebrate






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cover, and fish assemblages at two sites around St. Thomas. The Reef Check program is a global
volunteer program designed to provide public education and raise awareness of the status of the
world's coral reefs through the biological monitoring of key reef species. The Reef Check
program provides a broad assessment of reefs which may be repeated annually for monitoring
purposes. For more information of the Reef Check program, see Hodgson et al. (2003) or the
Reef Check website at: http://www.reefcheck.org

The National Park Service (NPS) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the USVI
have collected some of the longest time-series data sets on coral reefs in the Caribbean, some
dating back decades (Turgeon et al. 2002; and Miller 2001).

Several innovative marine research and monitoring projects have been conducted in the USVI.
The Tektite I and II underwater habitat projects were done on the south side of St. John from
1969-1971 (Collette and Earle 1972; and Earle and Lavenberg 1975), and approximately 80
Hydrolab (1977 to 1985) and 13 Aquarius (1987 to 1989) underwater habitat missions were
conducted around St. Croix (Turgeon et al. 2002).

The Buck Island Reef National Monument (BIRNM) and the Virgin Islands National Park
(VINP) both have formal monitoring programs dating to the late 1980s (Bythell et al. 1992;
Turgeon et al. 2002; and Miller 2001). These focus on coral reef condition, reef fish, sea turtle
populations, and seagrass beds (VINP only). Each year three coral reef sites (20 transects each)
at VINP and two at BIRNM are monitored using this protocol (Miller 2001; and Turgeon et al.
2002). For the past 14 years, reef fish in the VINP have been monitored at between 4 and 16 reef
sites (15 to 18 censuses are conducted at each site) and fish censuses were recently re-established
at BIRNM (130 censuses). Research and monitoring on both nesting and juvenile sea turtles at
BIRNM has been summarized in Hillis-Starr and Phillips (1998).

Benthic habitat types found throughout the USVI have been digitally mapped (Appendix 2), as
part of the NOAA/NOS Biogeography Program, to a depth of 20 meters (65.6 ft.) (Kendall et al.
2001). These habitat maps could be the basis for establishing a number of permanent sites as
part of long-term monitoring program.

There are numerous methods, techniques, and protocols for monitoring, surveying, and assessing
coral reefs (Bacle 2002; Bohnsack and Bannerot 1986; Brock 1954; Bythell et al. 1993; Hodge
2001; Hodgson and Wilkinson 2001; Miller et al. 2003b; Nemeth and Sladek-Nowlis 2001;
Nemeth et al. 2002, 2003a, 2004a; Rogers and Miller 2001; Rogers and Zullo 1987; Rogers et al.
1983, 1988a, 1994, 2001, 2004; and Smith and Renard undated).

Tracking trends in ecosystem structure and changes in reef fish assemblages requires long-term
data from a number of locations, over appropriate temporal and spatial scales (Turgeon et al.
2002). While Federal monitoring programs sponsored by the NPS may be adequate for those
jurisdictions, there needs to be coral reef monitoring across all three islands in a coordinated and
scientifically justifiable manner (Turgeon et al. 2002).






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In the USVI, all agencies involved in coral reef monitoring suffer from a shortage of staff and
dedicated funding. Enforcement of regulations that protect marine resources has been limited
both at the Federal and Territorial levels (Turgeon et al. 2002).


(5) Current USVI Coral Reef Management Measures

The U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Government of the
Virgin Islands all have jurisdiction over submerged lands within the USVI. Federal Marine
Protected Areas (MPAs) provide varying levels of protection and enforcement for USVI coral
reef ecosystems (Turgeon et al. 2002). Refer to Figures VI-1, VI-2 (Chapter 6), and Appendix 3
for maps of MPAs.


St. Croix Protected Coral Reefs

Aspects of St. Croix's coral reef ecosystems are protected by six federal MPAs (Turgeon et al.
2002). The NPS manages the Buck Island Reef National Monument (BIRNM), established on
St. Croix in 1962 (Presidential Proclamation 3443) to protect one of the finest coral reef
ecosystems in the Caribbean. Additional marine portions were added in 1975 (Presidential
Proclamation 4346) and 2001 (Presidential Proclamation 7392). Current size of BIRNM is 71 ha
(175.4 acres) of land and 77.7 km2 (30 sq. miles) of submerged lands, of which 9 km2 is within
the St. Croix insular shelf and contains coral reefs and associated habitat.

Presidential Proclamation 7392 declared the entire BIRNM a no-fishing and no-anchoring zone,
ending over 40 years of legal extractive use within BIRNM. This monument is the first
substantial no-take area established for the island of St. Croix and will require consistent and
enhanced law enforcement to protect the area and effect the recovery of St. Croix's depleted reef
fisheries. Until 2001, only a small eastern section (49.7 ha) (122.8 acres) was designated a no-
take zone, thus most of the current BIRNM was open to extractive uses, including setting of fish
traps, cast net, hook and line, and hand collection of conch and lobster. The NPS has had limited
success in controlling illegal fishing due to lack of law enforcement staff (Turgeon et al. 2002).

The St. Croix East End Marine Park, managed by the V.I. Government, was designated on
January 9, 2003 (TNC 2002). Regulations are pending that will designate certain restricted
zones within the park boundary.

The NPS and the Government of the Virgin Islands manage the Salt River Bay National
Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, established on St. Croix in 1992, to preserve, protect,
and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations certain nationally-significant
historical, cultural, and natural sites and resources (16 USC 410tt). This park and preserve
includes approximately 1.6 km2 (0.62 sq. miles) of land and 2.5 km2 (0.96 sq miles) of water that
extends seaward to about 91 m (298.6 ft) depth (Turgeon et al. 2002). It includes the water
surface and marine resources of the Salt River Bay, Triton Bay, and Sugar Bay. Fishing is
allowed in this MPA (Turgeon et al. 2002).






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From March 1 to June 30 each year, NOAA and the V.I. Government prohibit all fishing within
the Mutton Snapper Spawning Aggregation Area (refer to Figure VI-4, page 203), a 3.75 km2
(1.45 sq miles) MPA south of St. Croix (50 CFR 622.23, see Appendix 3).

Like the Mutton Snapper Spawning Aggregation Area, NOAA closes the Red Hind Spawning
Aggregation Area (Figure VI-4, page 203) from December 1 through February 28 each year
(Turgeon et al. 2002; see also Appendix 3). It is a federally protected MPA, 3.9 km2 (1.51 sq
miles) located on Lang Bank, east of St. Croix (50 CFR 622.23).


St. John Protected Coral Reefs:

The NPS manages the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP) (see Figure VI-3, page 202) that was
established off St. John, USVI in 1956 to preserve significant coral gardens, marine life, and
seascapes for the public (16 USC Sec. 398). Marine portions were added in 1962, as was Hassel
Island in St. Thomas Harbor.

VINP occupies 56% of the 48 km2 (18.53 sq miles) island of St. John and 23 km2 (8.88 sq miles)
of the surrounding waters (Turgeon et al. 2002). Traditional fishing with traps is allowed. Trunk
Bay, the site of an underwater trail, is the only no-take zone in the VINP (40 acres). All
anchoring is prohibited on the south side of the VINP and spearfishing is illegal in all park
waters.

NPS manages the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICRNM), established in
2001 on St. John (Presidential Proclamation 7399). The 51.4 km2 (19.85 sq miles) MPA is a no-
take and no-anchor zone with limited exceptions (see Figure VI-3, page 202). Regulations
guiding the management of this new NPS unit have been published within the Code of Federal
Regulations, Title 36, Chapter 1.


St. Thomas Protected Coral Reef

A seasonal closure (proposed by the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council but managed by
NOAA) was enacted at the red hind spawning site off St. Thomas in 1990 (Turgeon et al. 2002).
In November 1999 this 41 km2 (15.83 sq miles) MPA, the Red Hind Bank Marine Conservation
District (see Figure VI-3, page 202), south of St. Thomas, was designated a marine reserve (year-
round closure) with all fishing and anchoring prohibited (50 CFR 622.23; see Appendix 3).
Average length of spawning red hind have increased from 29.5 cm TL (11.6 in) in 1988 to 38.8
cm TL (15.3 in) in 2000, and the number of spawning red hind increased from 5 to 25 fish/100
m2 (1,076.4 sq ft) (Turgeon et al. 2002; and Nemeth, in press).


(6) Regulations Applicable to USVI Coral Reefs

The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the USVI Territorial
Government all have policies, laws, and legislation relating to coral reef conservation.






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The Code of Federal Regulations Title 36, the enabling legislation for VINP (16 USC 398), and
the BIRNM Presidential Proclamation relate to reefs in national parks. The Caribbean Fishery
Management Council (CFMC) has Reef Fish, spiny lobster, conch, and Coral Reef Management
Plans (CFMC 1985a, 1985b, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996) with regulations pertaining to
federal waters.


Federal Laws, Policies, and Regulations Applicable to USVI Coral Reefs

1) Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 as Amended: 16
U.S.C. 1801-1882 The Magnuson Act mandates the preparation of fishery
management plans for important fishery resources within the EEZ. All FMPs and
their respective management measures must be based on ten national standards as
prescribed in the Magnuson Act.

The amended Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1996, also known as the Sustainable
Fisheries Act (SFA), included new Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) requirements,
and as such, each existing, and any new, FMP must describe and identify EFH for
the fishery, minimize to the extent practicable adverse effects on the EFH caused
by fishing, and identify other actions to encourage the conservation and
enhancement of that EFH. The Magnuson-Stevens Act defines EFH as "those
waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth
to maturity". NOAA Fisheries issued its final EFH regulation-guidelines on
January 17, 2002. The regulations provide guidelines to fishery management
councils for developing the EFH sections of fishery management plans and
establish procedures to be used by NOAA Fisheries and other agencies to consult
and coordinate regarding federal and state agency actions that may adversely
affect EFH.

2) Fishery Management Plans Current FMPS for the USVI include: (1) the corals
and reef-associated plants and invertebrates FMP (CFMC 1994, and 2004); (2) the
spiny lobster FMP (CFMC 1985a, and 2004); (3) the conch resources FMP
(CFMC 1996, and 2004); and (4) the reef fishery FMP (CFMC 1985b, 1990,
1993, and 2004).

3) Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), Title III as
Amended: 16 U.S.C. 1431-1445 This Act provides for establishment of marine
sanctuaries and may include regulation of the fishery resource within them.

4) Clean Water Act (CWA) as Amended: 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. The CWA
requires that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit
be obtained before any pollutant is discharged from a point source into waters of
the United States, including waters of the contiguous zone of the adjoining ocean.






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5) Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), Title 1 as Amended:
33 U.S.C. 1401-1421: 1441-1445. The transportation of materials for ocean
dumping requires a permit. EPA issues the permits, except for transportation of
dredged materials that is issued by the Corps of Engineers. Criteria for issuing
such permits include consideration of effects of dumping on the marine
environment, ecological systems, and fisheries resources.

6) Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as Amended (CZMA): 16 U.S.C. 1451-
1464 The principal objective of the Coastal Zone Management Act is to
encourage and assist states in developing coastal management programs, to
coordinate state activities, and to safeguard the regional and national interests in
the coastal zone. Under the CZMA states are encouraged, with federal funding, to
develop coastal zone management programs that establish unified policies,
criteria, and standards for dealing with land and water use in their coastal zone.
Coastal states also can control activities in estuarine areas to protect particularly
sensitive resources. The CZMA has been amended to include non-point source
pollution from upland areas.

7) Endangered Species Act of 1973, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 The
Endangered Species Act provides for the listing of threatened or endangered plant
and animal species. Once listed as a threatened or endangered species, taking
(including harassment) is prohibited (CFMC 1994). Federally listed
endangered/threatened species of relevance to the coral FMP are (CFMC 1994):

a) the endangered leatherback sea turtle Dermochelys coriacea
b) the endangered hawksbill sea turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
c) the threatened green sea turtle Chelonia mydas
d) the threatened loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta
e) the endangered manatee Trichechus manatus

8) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as Amended: 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370a
NEPA requires that all federal agencies recognize and give appropriate
consideration to environmental amenities and values in their decision-making
(CFMC 1994). NEPA requires that federal agencies prepare an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) before undertaking major actions that might significantly
affect the quality of the human environment. Alternatives to the proposed action
must be carefully assessed.

9) Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 661-666c Under the
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the USFWS and the NMFS (NOAA
Fisheries) review and comment on aspects of proposals for work and activities
sanctioned, permitted, assisted, or conducted by federal agencies that take place in
or affect navigable waters (CFMC 1994). The review focuses on potential
damage to fish and wildlife and their habitat, particularly in nearshore waters, and
may, therefore, serve to provide protection to fishery resources from federal






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activities. Federal agencies must consider the recommendations of the two
agencies.

10) Fish Restoration and Management Projects Act, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 777-7771
Under this Act, the Department of Interior apportions funds to state fish and
game agencies for fish restoration and management projects. Funds for protection
of threatened fish communities located within state waters, including marine
areas, could be made available under the Act.

11) National Park Service Organic Act, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 1-4, 22, 43 The
National Park Service under the Department of Interior may regulate fishing
activities within park boundaries (CFMC 1994). The St. John National Park and
Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix, USVI) are both in this
management unit.

12) Lacey Act, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 1540, 3371-3378 The Act prohibits import,
export, and interstate transport of illegally taken fish or wildlife. This Act
strengthens and improves enforcement of federal fish and wildlife laws and
provides federal assistance in enforcement of state and foreign laws (CFMC
1994).

13) Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as Amended: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407 -
This Act makes it unlawful (except for some native Americans) to kill, capture, or
harass any marine mammal or attempt to do so; prohibits the importation of
pregnant, nursing, or illegally taken marine mammals; and prohibits whaling
within U.S. areas of authority. If the fishery potentially affects marine mammal
populations, these impacts must be analyzed in the EIS (CFMC 1994). Councils
must consider actions to mitigate adverse impacts.

14) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CITES is an
international agreement between Governments. Its aim is to ensure that
international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their
survival. Although CITES is legally binding on the member Parties, now totaling
167 Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a
framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic
legislation to make sure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC) currently has a fishery management plan
in effect for corals and reef-associated invertebrates of the federal waters around Puerto Rico and
the U.S. Virgin Islands (CFMC 1994, and 2004).

CFMC prohibited the take of all coral, dead or alive, and live rock since 1995 (MerrellKatsouros,
LLP 2003). Fisheries in the Caribbean are coral reef based fisheries, both in shallow and deep
waters. CFMC is currently involved in the mapping and assessment of coral reefs in the EEZ
(MerrellKatsouros, LLP 2003). A GIS map will be prepared from the historical information on






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CFMC's fishery management plan for coral and reef-associated plants and invertebrates includes
over 100 species of coral (including stony corals, sea fans, and gorgonians) and over 60 species
of plants (including seagrasses) and invertebrates (CFMC 1994, and 2004). The plan covers two
distinct components. The first is a fishery for live invertebrates which are marketed for the
marine aquarium trade. Aside from reef-associated invertebrates, this fishery includes what is
widely known as live-rock (rock substrate supporting diverse invertebrate life forms). Live-rock
is highly valued by aquarists and there is a rapidly growing market for this resource (ReefKeeper
1993). The second component of the plan comprises corals and coral reefs. These resources are
of enormous value for the reef communities that they support, for their physical capacity to
protect coastlines and for their aesthetic value. Indeed, traditional coastal fisheries in the
Caribbean may best be characterized as coral reef fisheries intimately dependent on the backbone
of habitats created by coral reefs and associated invertebrates (MerrellKatsouros, LLP 2003).

The FMP for coral and reef-associated plants, invertebrates (CFMC 1994, and 2004) addresses
various concerns over the present and probable future condition, in the absence of further
regulation, of component species through a number of management measures. These include:

1) prohibits the harvest or possession of stony corals, sea fans, gorgonians, and any
species in the fishery management unit if attached or existing upon live-rock,
except under legal permit for research, education, and restoration;

2) prohibits the sale or possession of any prohibited species unless fully documented
as to point of origin;

3) prohibits the use of chemicals, plants or plant derived toxins, and explosives for
harvest;

4) limits harvest of other invertebrates to dip nets, slurp guns, by hand, and other
non-habitat destructive gear with an exception for permitted scientific, education,
and restoration programs; and

5) requires permitting and reporting by harvesters, dealers, and exporters of
invertebrates.


Local Laws, Policies, and Regulations Applicable to USVI Coral Reefs

Title 12 of the Virgin Islands Rules and Regulations (VIRR) presents environmental laws and
regulations of the Virgin Islands. Several sections of the St. Croix reef system have been
designated Areas of Particular Concern by the USVI Department of Planning and Natural
Resources (NOAA 1988). However, with the exception of the East End Marine Park, there is no
management plan in place and no enforcement activity (Turgeon et al. 2002). The Coastal Zone
Management (CZM) permitting process requires a permit for any land or water disturbance that
could impact territorial waters (to the 3 mile territorial limit). The USVI Division of






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The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) regulates commercial and
recreational fishing activities with the advice of the Division of Fish and Wildlife and the St.
Thomas/St. John and St. Croix Fisheries Advisory Committees (Uwate 2002). The
DPNR/Division of Environmental Enforcement is responsible for enforcing regulations within
USVI waters (Uwate 2002), and DEE officers are also deputized to enforce Federal regulations.
There are size restrictions and seasonal closures on certain fisheries species (DPNR 2004; also
see Appendix 3).

In addition to VIRR, Title 12, there is the Indigenous and Endangered Species Act 5665,
December 1990. This Act has the purpose of protecting, conserving, and managing indigenous
fish, wildlife, and plants, and endangered or threatened species. The Act allows for the issuance
of permits to collect and/or transit (export) indigenous or endangered species for commercial,
private, educational, or scientific use, and covers the collection of aquarium fish, invertebrates,
or live-rock, maintenance in captivity or shipping of any indigenous or endangered species, or
cutting or pruning of mangroves. Special permits may be issued for collectors from recognized
museums, research organization, etc., scientists, and for recovery and propagation activities. A
list of endangered or threatened animals in the USVI of relevance to this plan can be seen in
Table V-4 on page 191 and 192 of Chapter 5.


(7) Current Projects Related to USVI Coral Reefs

The Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC), in collaboration with the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution, the University of Puerto Rico, USVI DFW, and the University of the
Virgin Islands, has begun to identify species composition of the deepwater reef-forming corals in
the EEZ using high-resolution digital photos (Merrell-Katsouros, LLP 2003). The preliminary
results show an incredible diversity of species in healthy coral reef communities that are worth
preserving for future generations (MerrellKatsouros, LLP 2003).

The Council has also contracted to map and obtain high-resolution bathymetry (now completed)
through side scan sonar and multi-beam of the Marine Conservation District (MCD) no-take
zone, established in 1999, off St. Thomas, USVI and the deepwater seasonally closed areas of St.
Croix, USVI (Geophysics International 2003). These areas are thought to be fish spawning
aggregation sites for groupers, snappers, and other fish species. These areas have been identified
as spawning aggregation sites in ReefKeeper International's spawning aggregation database
(Rielinger 1999), which further cites Olsen and LaPlace (1978) and Beets and Friedlander (1992)
as source documents. Also see Beets and Friedlander (1998), Nemeth et al. (2004), Nemeth
(2005), and Luckhurst (2003). Mapping of these deepwater habitats in the EEZ is a high priority
in the efforts of the Council to identify and describe essential fish habitat. In addition, the
Council will be funding a new project on coral reefs. This will produce an inventory and atlas of
coral and coral reefs, with emphasis on deepwater coral reefs within the U.S. Caribbean EEZ.
This project was approved as part of the NOAA Coral Reef Program, which funded the Councils
that have coral and coral reefs under their area of authority (MerrellKatsouros, LLP 2003).






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There are several projects currently being undertaken by the government of the Virgin Islands
(DPNR/DFW), the University of the Virgin Islands, and other federal agencies and NGOs,
concerning the protection and conservation of coral reefs, in particular, and habitats, in general.
These include:

1) The implementation of a one-time trammel and gill net buy-back program in St.
Croix (grant no. WC133F03SE1088), intended to reduce gear impacts to benthic
habitat, in particular corals, by facilitating the removal of trammel and gill nets
from the inshore fishery (Tobias 2004; and NOAA 2003). Commercial landings
by trammel net and gill net fishers on St. Croix now exceed landings by trap
fishers (NOAA 2003). The species targeted by trammel and gill net fishers are
herbivores. Heavy harvesting of herbivores may affect the health of the coral
reefs of the area. In addition, the nets are placed on hard and soft corals and
removal of nets can cause damage to the reefs.

2) The installation of mooring buoys in the St. Croix East End Marine Park (Boating
Infrastructure Grant, Tier 1; no. Y-2-1) to facilitate access for vessels and to
minimize anchor damage to critical marine habitats such as coral and seagrass
areas (DFW 2004a). There is also a project for deployment and maintenance of
day-use mooring buoys around St. Thomas and St. Croix (DFW 2004b). Also,
the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP) in St. John has a day-use mooring buoy
program and has about 200 day-use buoys installed in the VINP (VINP undated).

3) The assessment of recreational fisheries habitats for St. Thomas/St. John (grant
no. F7-19). Refer to Coral Reef Monitoring Section-Habitat survey project,
above.

4) The implementation of a long-term coral reef monitoring and assessment
program, by the government of the Virgin Islands, in coordination with federal
agencies and the University of the Virgin Islands. Refer to Coral Reef Monitoring
Section Coral reef monitoring project, above.

5) The development and implementation of protocols, by the NPS and USGS, to
monitor and inventory coral reef and seagrass communities in the Virgin Islands
National Park and Buck Island Reef National Monument (Rogers et al. 2004).

For information on research priorities for Caribbean coral reefs, see McManus (2001).


3. MANGROVES

The wetlands of the U.S. Virgin Islands are limited in area but are an important natural resource.
They are generally coastal wetlands such as mangrove forests and salt-ponds and are classified as
estuarine or marine (USGS 1994). For the discussion below, much of what is referred to as






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the terrain is less steep and the drainage basins are larger than on St. Thomas or St. John (USGS
1994). On the basis of mapping by the USFWS's National Wetlands Inventory, there are 960
acres of wetlands on St. Croix, 320 acres of wetlands on St. Thomas, and 425 acres of wetlands
on St. John (USGS 1994).

Estuarine intertidal vegetated wetlands in the USVI are dominated by red, white, and black
mangroves (USGS 1994). Saltponds are the predominant marine wetlands in the USVI (USGS
1994). They are tidal flats or basins that are at least partially separated from direct contact to the
sea by a beach berm (USGS 1994).


(1) Mangrove General Description

Generally speaking, mangrove forests are one of the most important intertidal plant communities
found along low wave-energy shorelines in the tropics (Lewis 1983). They are highly productive
environments that support a variety of flora and fauna. Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli (1983)
reported a daily rate of organic matter fixation of 20 g/m2/day. Mangroves produce large
quantities of organic detritus which may support the high secondary productivity observed in
nearshore open waters and embayments (Aiken and Moli de Peters 1988).

The term mangrove is used to loosely define members of approximately 12 plant families that
consist of more than 50 species (Odum et al. 1982). Seven species of mangrove trees are found
in the Caribbean region (Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli 1983). Three species of red mangrove
(Rhizophora mangle, R. harrisonni, and R. racemosa) are found in the Caribbean, with
Rhizophora mangle being the most common. Two species of black mangrove occur in this
region (Avicennia germinans and A. schaueriana), with A. germinans being the most common.
Two other common mangroves found in the Caribbean region are the white mangrove
(Laguncularia racemosa) and the buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpus erecta).

Each of these species of mangroves has special ecological requirements and adaptations which
determine their distribution, areal extent, and response to pollution stresses (Cintron and
Schaffer-Novelli 1983). Generally, these adaptations are reflected by the distinctive zonation
patterns observed within mangrove forests. Cintron and Schaffer-Novelli (1983) provide an
explanation for these zonation patterns. Usually the red mangrove is the first species to colonize
a new area due to its tolerance of high water and its seed dispersal mechanism. Following the
establishment of red mangroves and the accumulation of sediment and organic matter, conditions
become suitable for the establishment of black and white mangrove species. These species are
generally more tolerant of higher salinities and are better able to withstand long periods of
flooding. The buttonwood mangrove tends to be found along the upland fringe of a mangrove
area, or in coastal areas where other mangrove trees do not occur.

Although mangroves were originally thought to trap sediment and gradually accumulate
sediment and grow seaward, it appears that generally, mangroves only stabilize regions of
sediment deposition and that little offshore expansion occurs (Lugo and Snedaker 1974). Due to
the global rise in sea level, mangroves have actually migrated landward in response to higher sea
level (Cintron et al. 1978). However, on shorter time scales (several years), areas colonized by






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mangroves may fluctuate due to damage caused by storms or changes in patterns of seawater
exchange within the mangrove as the result of creation and destruction of sediment barriers on
the seaward fringe (Cintron et al. 1978). More detailed descriptions of the ecology of mangrove
forests are presented by Lugo and Snedaker (1974), Odum et al. (1982), and Lugo et al. (1988).

In general, mangroves exhibit relatively high rates of gross primary productivity under favorable
conditions (Lugo and Snedaker 1974; and Snedaker and Brown 1982). Part of the organic
production not used in respiration is accumulated as forest biomass and a significant fraction also
goes to the production of leaf litter and woody debris. Although rates of productivity and
biomass accumulation may vary by orders of magnitude, leaf litter production remains relatively
uniform (i.e., between one and four grams carbon/square meter/day) (Snedaker and Brown
1982). Highest productivities occur under conditions of moderate salinity, year-round warm
temperatures, regular surface-water flushing, and exposure to terrestrial-water runoff.

Mangrove communities have a variety of recognized roles in the larger ecosystem in which they
occur (Snedaker and Getter 1985). The most prominent role is the production of leaf litter and
detrital matter which is exported, during the flushing process, to the nearshore marine
environment (Snedaker and Getter 1985). Through a process of microbial breakdown and
enrichment, the detrital particles become a nutritious food resource for a variety of marine
animals. In addition, the soluble organic materials which result from decomposition within the
forest also enter the near-shore environment where they become available to a variety of marine
and estuarine filter feeders and benthic scavengers. The organic matter exported from the
mangrove habitat is utilized in one form or another, including utilization by inhabitants of
seagrass beds and coral reefs which may occur in the area (Snedaker and Getter 1985). Whereas
the role of mangroves in the production and maintenance of nearshore fisheries is becoming an
accepted fact (Adams and Tobias 1994; Adams and Ebersole 2002; Boulon 1992; Dennis 1992;
Mateo and Tobias 2001; Mateo et al. 2002; Mateo 2001a; Tobias 1996, 1998, 2001; and Thayer
et al. 1987), mangroves have other roles which are recognized in different parts of the world. In
areas of annual cyclonic storm activity, the shoreline mangroves are recognized as a buffer
against storm-tide surges that would otherwise have a damaging effect on low-lying land areas.
Elsewhere, mangroves are noted for their ability to stabilize coastal shorelines that would
otherwise be subject to erosion and loss (Saenger et al. 1983). Probably one of their more
important roles is the preservation of water quality. Because of their ability to extract nutrients
from circulating waters, the eutrophication (excess nutrient enrichment) potential of nearshore
waters is minimized. Also, the saline and anaerobic (no oxygen) mangrove sediments have a
limited ability to sequester and/or detoxify common pollutants (Snedaker and Brown 1981). For
example, some heavy metals are sequestered as insoluble sulfides, and certain organic pollutants
are oxidized or decomposed through microbial activity.

In addition to their ecological role in coastal areas, mangrove forests are a source of many
different products having commercial and domestic importance (Snedaker and Getter 1985). In
many parts of the world, where direct dependency on local resources is the basis for survival,
human populations heavily rely upon products from this habitat. In recent times, as resources
have become scarcer, the mangrove habitat and forests have become recognized as resources for
commercial utilization for such products as timber, pulpwood, and chips, fuel wood and
charcoal, honey production, and sundry domestic products (Snedaker and Getter 1985). Where it






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is recognized that societal lifestyle and survival are dependent upon a functioning mangrove
system, care is usually taken by the inhabitants to protect it. It is the various uses of mangrove
forest products and the plant and animal materials associated with them that lead to pressures
concerning their utilization. Integrated planning, which involves simultaneous attention to all
sectors and considers the maximum sustained yield of each resource, is an approach which is
especially important in the management of mangrove forests.

Mangrove ecosystems support a high diversity of fish, birds, and other wildlife (UNESCO 1983).
Mangrove lagoons are important habitat for juveniles of many fish species (Heald and Odum
1970; Austin 1971a and 1971b; Austin and Austin 1971; Olsen 1972 and 1973; Cintron-Molero
1987; Thayer et al. 1987; Boulon 1992; and Tobias 1996). They can provide nursery areas for
estuarine as well as reef fishes (Odum et al. 1982; Boulon 1985 and 1992; and Tobias 1996).
Many juveniles use detritus and mangrove-associated invertebrates and fish as a food source
(Zieman et al. 1984; and Thayer et al. 1987). The complex prop-root habitat may also provide
protection from predation (Orth et al. 1984; and Sogard and Olla 1993). In addition to providing
important habitat, mangroves filter sediment and help maintain the integrity of the lagoon and
seagrass habitat (Cintron-Molero 1987), also an important nursery area (Dennis 1992).

Of particular concern to fisheries managers are economically important species, such as those
targeted by recreational and commercial fishermen (Tobias 1996). The utilization of mangrove
habitats by these economical species and their prey species is important (Robertson and Duke
1987). The documentation of mangroves as nursery areas for recreationally and commercially
valuable species, and their prey species, provides impetus for including mangrove habitats in
fisheries management plans and designating these areas as essential fish habitat (Tobias 1996).

The documentation of mangroves as nursery areas for recreationally and commercially valuable
species, and their prey species, provides impetus for including mangrove habitats in fisheries
management plans (Adams and Tobias 1994; Adams and Ebersole 2002; Boulon 1992; Dennis
1992; Mateo and Tobias 2001; Mateo et al. 2002; Mateo 2001a; Tobias 1996, 1998, 2001; and
Thayer et al. 1987). However, in light of the interactive system of mangrove lagoon, seagrass,
and coral reef, and the complex communities they support (UNESCO 1983), it is important that
the evaluation of mangrove lagoon nursery areas is not limited to fishery-important species.
Direct recreational exploitation of species that utilize the mangrove nursery area is not the only
gauge of the importance of the mangrove habitat to the fishery. Many of the species present in
mangrove lagoons are potential prey for recreationally or commercially targeted species (Odum
and Heald 1972; Robertson and Duke 1987; and Thayer et al. 1987). In addition, while the
carbon derived from the mangrove detritus is primarily cycled within the lagoon (Fleming et al.
1990), it directly (detritivores) or indirectly (carnivores) supports the nursery community. The
juveniles that then migrate to the reef as adults are effectively exporting the energy of the
mangrove lagoon to the reef system. This is a significant contribution, since fish density may be
35 times higher in mangrove prop-root habitat than in seagrass (Thayer et al. 1987). Thus, even
species that are not recreationally exploited likely play an important role in the health of the
recreational fisheries.






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(2) USVI Mangroves

Mangrove forests may develop under a variety of conditions of water depth, salinity, hydrologic
regime, and wave energy. Mangrove habitat in the U.S. Virgin Islands is primarily mangrove
fringe along lagoons and oceanic bays (Boulon 1992). General mangrove forest types that have
been observed in the Virgin Islands include the following (Tetra Tech 1991a):

1) Riverine forests These forests develop along the edges of river estuaries.

2) Basin forests These forests develop in coastal floodplains and are often
associated with riverine forests.

3) Fringe forests These forests develop along shores or the edges of offshore cays.

4) Salt ponds These ponds are lagoonal fringe forests that have lost their regular
tidal connection with the ocean and only periodically receive large amounts of
fresh water.

In the USVI, mangroves contribute many benefits to the island's ecosystems (Tetra Tech 1992).
They protect the islands from storm tides and hurricanes, and help to stabilize the shorelines.
They act as sediment traps and pollution filters for runoff from the watersheds on hillsides above
the mangroves and reduce the amount of silt and chemicals which reach the seagrass beds and
coral reefs. They also trap and cycle various organic materials, distributing important nutrients
to nearby marine habitats. Their roots provide the surface to which mangrove oysters and other
marine animals attach themselves. These filter-feeding animals also trap and cycle nutrients.
Mangroves provide a wide range of habitat types for aquatic and land-dwelling wildlife. They
offer protected nursery and feeding areas for a variety of juvenile marine life, including snappers,
grunts, parrotfish, barracuda, baitfish, lobster, conch, and numerous other aquatic animals
(Mateo and Tobias 2001). Many of the fish seen on the local reefs grow up among red mangrove
prop roots before they migrate out to the reef (Adams and Tobias 1994). Coastal mangroves are
therefore essential for maintaining healthy recreational and commercial fisheries in the USVI, as
well as in balancing the reef ecosystems.

There has been much discussion about the role of coastal habitats, in general, and mangrove
habitats in particular, as nursery grounds for commercially and recreationally important fishes in
the USVI (see Tobias 1996, 1998, and 2001; Boulon 1991 and 1992; Mateo 2001a; Mateo et al.
2002; Dennis 1992; Mateo and Tobias 2001; Adams and Tobias 1994; and Adams and Ebersole
2002).

In the USVI, mangrove wetlands are located on prime coastal real estate (Tobias 1996). As a
result, they are often threatened by commercial and residential development. A review of aerial
photographs of the USVI revealed that an alarming portion of the mangroves have been lost in
just the last few decades. The Virgin Grand Hotel (now the St. John Westin) at Great Cruz Bay
on St. John and the Sapphire Beach Resort, Grand Palace, and Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas
sit on what were formerly mangrove wetlands. Southgate pond on St. Croix and the mangrove
wetland at Benner Bay on St. Thomas have been substantially altered by marina construction.






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The Virgin Island Port Authority (VIPA) container port, Hovensa oil refinery, and Alcoa
aluminum plant were constructed in the early 1960s on what was once Krause Lagoon, the
largest mangrove system in the Virgin Islands.

A recent assessment of the shallow water reef fish in the U.S. Caribbean (Appeldoorn et al.
1992) showed further declining trends of inshore fisheries resources that cannot be attributed to
overfishing alone. In general, unregulated development of upland and coastal areas have
resulted in increased sedimentation rates and the introduction of pollutants which have degraded
the water quality of coastal environs (Saenger and McIvor 1974; Tobias 1996). Mangrove
habitat in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been severely reduced by shoreline development for
marine-related activities (i.e., marinas and commercial ports) (USGS 1994). Impacts by natural
disasters (i.e., hurricanes) have been severe in recent years (USGS 1994).

Each time a mangrove wetland is substantially altered or destroyed its benefits to humans and
animals are diminished or destroyed with it. The USVI's coastal areas are no longer buffered
from storms (USGS 1994). Silt and pollution spill over onto seagrass beds and coral reefs.
Fishermen's livelihoods are threatened. Wildlife species are diminished and biodiversity, the
wide range of plants and animals living in and around the wetland, decreases (Knowles and
Amrani 1991). As the environmental quality of the islands diminishes, fewer tourists may select
the USVI for their vacation, with consequent negative impacts on the economy.

The wetlands (mangroves) of the U.S. Virgin Islands have been impacted by both natural and
anthropogenic forces. Hurricane Hugo, which passed directly over St. Croix in September 1989,
was the last major storm event to significantly alter the wetlands of the islands. Hurricane winds
defoliated mangroves to such an extent that many died. In addition, a number of black and white
mangroves were uprooted (Knowles and Amrani 1991). Although recovery might be slow
(perhaps as long as 50 years), the impacted wetlands should become re-established if properly
managed.


St. Croix Mangroves

On St. Croix, the southern-most of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the fringing mangroves (red
mangrove, Rhizophora mangle) have a well developed, permanently submerged prop-root
system that provides potential nursery habitat (Tobias 1996). Three prominent mangrove
systems remain on St. Croix: Salt River, Altona Lagoon, and Great Pond. However, very limited
information on the mangrove forests of St. Croix is available. Formerly the largest mangrove
area on the island, Krause Lagoon is now occupied by the South Shore Industrial Complex (Tetra
Tech 1992). Currently, the best mangrove stands occur in the area of Great Pond on the south
coast (Tetra Tech 1992). Many of the mangroves of St. Croix are associated with salt ponds
because of the lack of permanent rivers and the high evaporation rate relative to rainfall. A well-
developed mangrove forest also fringes the shoreline of Salt River (Tetra Tech 1992).

Island Resources Foundation (1985) reported that the Great Pond on the south coast of St. Croix
had some of the best red and black mangrove stands remaining in the U.S. Virgin Islands.






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Coakley Bay on the north coast and Sandy Point, Long Point, and Robin Bay on the south coast
(IRF 1985).

Two studies were designed to determine the areal distribution of red mangroves, as nursery
habitat for certain fishes, on St. Croix and to characterize them on the basis of environmental
condition, to determine quantitatively the species composition and abundance of recreationally
important fish species occurring in the mangrove fringe habitat, to identify immediate and long-
term threats to the existing habitat, to estimate their potential impact on recreational fisheries,
and to suggest possible mitigation measures. The first study (Tobias 1996) provided information
on Salt River and Altona Lagoon, and the second study (Tobias 1998) was conducted in Great
Pond. These are the three prominent mangrove systems on St. Croix, with fringing mangroves
that have well developed, permanently submerged prop-root systems that provide potential
nursery habitat. Both studies demonstrated that the fringing red mangrove ecosystems provide
important nursery habitat for juveniles of numerous reef fish species, many of which are
recreationally important as primary target species or food fishes for primary target species.

In 1999, the St. Croix office of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS), the St.
Croix Environmental Association (SEA), and DFW began a 3-year reforestation project to
restore the mangrove forest within Sugar Bay on St. Croix. With funding from the V.I. Dept. of
Planning and Natural Resources through the federal Clean Water Act, and the Royal Caribbean
Ocean Fund, 18,000 red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) and 3,000 black mangroves (Avicennia
germinans) were planted. The project utilized a planting method called the Riley Encased
Methodology (REM) to replant the red mangroves. This methodology incorporates a two-part
PVC system to encase the propagule and provide protection against extended periods of
submersion, damage from floating debris, and crab predation on the young trees.

On St. Croix, the largest mangrove estuary system in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Krause Lagoon,
consisting of more than 700 acres of wetlands, was destroyed in the 1960's with the development
of an industrial complex, consisting of an oil refinery, an alumina plant, and a commercial port
facility (USGS 1994). The mangrove wetland which existed at Krause Lagoon on St. Croix has
been replaced by refineries and storage tanks (USGS 1994). Also see APC and APR reports for
St. Croix mentioned above (IRF 1992d, 1992e, 1993g, 1993h, 1993i, 1993j, 1993k, 19931, and
1993m).


St. John Mangroves

On St. John, mangroves were noted in Leinster Bay and Newfound Bay on the north coast (IRF
1985). A fringing mangrove stand was noted at Lagoon Point-Johnson Reef in Coral Bay on the
east coast, and a large red and black mangrove stand was noted in Great Lameshur Bay on the
south coast. Examination of topographic maps (USGS 1982) indicated that mangrove coverage
exists in Reef Bay and Fish Bay on the south coast, in Great Cruz Bay on the west coast, and in
Peter, Cinnamon, Maho, and Francis Bays on the northwest coast. Many of these mangrove






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APR reports mentioned above (IRF 1992c, 1993e, and 1993f). The Great Lameshur mangrove
system was severely damaged due to Hurricanes Hugo (1989) and Marilyn (1995). A recently
completed reforestation project replanted several hundred red, white, and black mangroves
(Nemeth et al. 2004b).


St. Thomas Mangroves

Numerous small mangrove areas are found along the coast on St. Thomas, often in association
with salt ponds (Stengel 1998; and Tetra Tech 1992). The largest mangrove system on the island
is found in Mangrove Lagoon/Benner Bay on the southeast coast (IRF 1985). Several cays
within the bay are mangrove covered, and mangroves fringe the shoreline in some areas. These
mangroves are threatened with further encroachment of the human inhabitants and human-
induced pollution stresses (Grigg et al. 1971; and Phillip 1993). The mangrove and salt pond of
Perseverance Bay have also been described (IRF 1977b, and 1977c; and Rogers 1980a and
1982). Also see the APC and APR report (IRF 1993b) and Stengel (1998) concerning the
ecology of Mangrove Lagoon/Benner Bay.

The Benthic Habitat Assessment Project (BHAP), conducted by the USVI Division of Fish and
Wildlife (DFW), was developed to record current and long-term changes in a variety of under-
water habitats around the USVI (Adams et al. 1998; Chapman 1996; and Chapman et al. 1996).
The focus of BHAP is to provide data on the distribution and abundance of important
recreational fisheries habitat and to install permanent transects at sites to monitor change which
characterize the predominant shallow water benthic habitats in the USVI. The initial work is
being performed in the Cas Cay/Mangrove Lagoon, which contains the largest mangrove system
on St. Thomas, and St. James Marine Reserve, as both areas have been identified as primary
fishery nursery grounds (Adams et al. 1998; Chapman 1996; and Chapman et al. 1996).


(3) Priority Issues Concerning USVI Mangroves

Natural Stressors

Lugo et al. (1981) identified both natural and human-induced sources of stress to mangrove
environments. Natural stresses include unseasonably low and high temperatures, changes in soil
salinity due to changes in hydric regime, wind damage and sediment deposition resulting from
storms and floods, sea level rise, coastal erosion, and damage due to grazing by insect
herbivores. The response of mangroves to particular stressors was described by Cintron and
Schaeffer-Novelli (1983), Lugo and Snedaker (1974), Lugo et al. (1981), and by Odum and
Johannes (1975). The impacts of some natural stressors on mangroves are briefly described
below:

1) Eustatic sea level rise and coastal erosion The global sea level is rising at a rate
of 1.5 mm/yr (-0.06 inch/year) as a result of global warming (Cintron-Molero and
Schaeffer-Novelli 1992). Mangroves accommodate to rising sea-level either by
opportunistic colonization of new landforms created by rising wave-energy levels,






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by utilization of sheltered areas, or by encroachment on landward areas subject to
marine intrusions. On the other hand, they will disappear or occupy relic habitats
in coastal areas with steep topography. Rapid sea-level rise will result in the
fragmentation of mangrove areas. However, since mangroves are generalists,
they should be able to accommodate to these rapid changes.

2) Hypersalinity High salinity is a chronic natural stressor under severe water
deficits. Highly saline conditions (interstitial salinities >90 ppt) lead to the
development of vegetation-free areas common to arid coastal landscapes
(Cintron-Molero and Schaeffer-Novelli 1992). Here mangroves form narrow
fringes along the margins of water bodies. In the Caribbean, these salt flats
develop where precipitation is less than 1300 mm/yr (51 inches/year). Die-backs
occur as a result of drought. Mangrove coverage is actually unstable, with
coverage fluctuating between periods of expansion (following storms or a
succession of very moist years) and contraction (triggered by a succession of dry
years). In very dry areas, basin forests, which are more dependent on land
runoff, may disappear altogether, leaving thin red mangrove fringes or riverine
forests backed by hypersaline lagoons and/or salt flats. In most of these arid
areas, mangrove systems are delicately poised. Reduction of water flows or
impoundment (e.g., roads, dikes, causeways) can cause massive die-offs by
exacerbating the naturally rigorous conditions.

3) Hurricanes Hurricanes are common in many geographic areas containing
mangroves, and even areas normally outside the influence of hurricanes may
occasionally be struck (Cintron-Molero and Schaeffer-Novelli 1992). Fully
formed hurricanes may reach wind speeds near the center of more than 119 km/hr
(-74 mph). Mangroves are particularly vulnerable to these disturbances because
of their exposed locations, their shallow root systems, and the poor cohesiveness
of most mangrove soils. Stands are also exposed to erosion by flood currents and
scouring by waves. Tall forest stands are prone to greater destruction by rare but
powerful events with long recurrence intervals. Canopies of mangrove stands in
storm areas are fairly even, reflecting the destruction of emergent trees and the
occupation of the area by dense, even-aged stem populations.


Anthropogenic Stressors

Because most wetlands occur along coveted coasts, the major threat to wetlands is filling,
drainage, or alteration (e.g., opening to sea, dredging) for development. Many have already been
destroyed or severely altered by development. Other major threats include pollution,
sedimentation, and disturbance by human visitors. Given the prospect of rising sea levels, the






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Additional sources of stress that are unique to mangroves include fire, alterations in drainage
patterns, application of herbicides, and harvesting. Anthropogenic sources of stress to
mangroves that were not included by Lugo et al. (1981) include sewage effluent and cooling
water discharge from power plants. The following text briefly summarizes the important sources
of environmental stress that may impact mangroves in coastal waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands
(Tetra Tech 1991b).

1) Sewage effluent Municipal wastewater discharge was not included by Lugo et
al. (1981) as a source of stress to mangroves. However, Clough et al. (1983)
reviewed the impact of sewage on mangroves and concluded that although
nutrient enrichment of mangrove areas did not appear to be harmful, the impact of
other effluent constituents (e.g., pesticides, metals, and organic carbon) could lead
to additional stress on mangrove sediment fauna and mangrove trees.

2) Thermal effluent Kolehmainen et al. (1973) reported that the discharge of
cooling water from a power plant in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, caused greater
densities of prop roots, a reduction in leaf size, and possibly a decrease in net
productivity due to increases in plant respiration. The diversity of organisms
growing on prop roots also decreased with distance downstream of the power
plant. These effects were attributed to the increased temperature of the cooling
water discharge.

3) Oil pollution The impact of oil on mangroves has been reviewed by Lewis
(1983). Examination of the reported damage from a number of oil spills led
Lewis (1983) and Lugo et al. (1981) to conclude that although the amount of oil
spilled varied considerably, the extent of degradation to mangroves was
dependent primarily on the tidal regime and wave-energy of the site.

4) Fire Mangrove areas may catch fire and burn, especially those occurring in drier,
upland areas. In agricultural areas where fire is used to clear land (e.g., Puerto
Rico), fire can be a threat to upland fringes of mangrove (Tetra Tech 1991b).
This is especially true in areas where agricultural land (including cattle grazing
land) encroaches on the landward edge of mangroves.

5) Excessive harvesting Mangroves are harvested commercially for their value in
the leather tanning industry, for construction materials, and for firewood and
charcoal (Tetra Tech 1991b). Over-exploitation of this resource can lead to a
decline in areal coverage. When harvesting is accompanied by residential or
agricultural encroachment, these activities may lead to permanent loss of
harvested areas.

6) Herbicides and pesticides Herbicides have been shown to have adverse impacts
on mangrove forests and pesticides may adversely impact biota associated with
these habitats (Lugo and Snedaker 1974; and Odum et al. 1982). Culic (1984)
demonstrated the sub-lethal effects of the herbicide 2,4-D on the growth of red
mangrove seedlings in the laboratory. Although the levels of herbicide used by






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Culic (1984) exceeded levels likely to occur in runoff, sub-lethal impacts to
mangroves from herbicides remain an important concern, particularly for
mangroves occurring in agricultural areas.

7) Alterations of drainage The most serious impact to mangrove forests is likely
due to changes in water drainage patterns (Tetra Tech 1991b). Alterations can
cause changes in flooding and stagnation that result in changes in soil salinity and
the length, frequency, and depth of water inundation. These changes can be
induced naturally (hurricanes and floods) or through human influence
(construction, channelization, drainage or pumping activities). Mangrove areas
isolated from sources of freshwater and frequent flushing by tides will gradually
become hypersaline and unsuitable for mangrove growth. Similarly, areas cut off
from the influx of tidal seawater and receiving large quantities of freshwater will
also become unsuitable for mangrove growth.

8) Impoundment Diking cuts off nutrient sources, while raised water levels
interfere with gas exchange by covering lenticels and pneumatophores (Patterson-
Zucca 1978). In dry areas, salinities will increase, causing degradation and
mortality. Road building may impound mangrove areas if care is not taken to
preserve water flows.

9) Sedimentation Mangroves are adapted to high-sedimentation environments, but
sudden deposition of large quantities of sediments may cause mortalities (Cintron-
Molero and Schaffer-Novelli 1992). Deposition of dredge spoils is a common
cause of extensive mangrove die-offs. Areas may be reinvaded by mangroves
after the fill material has settled and subsided. Because of the edaphic and hydro-
logic changes, these new stands usually differ substantially in floristic structure
and composition from the original stands, reflecting the malleability of
mangroves.

10) Development A major problem that affects mangrove habitats results from
man's desire to convert mangrove areas to residential, commercial, industrial, and
agricultural developments (Snedaker and Getter 1985). In these situations, the
basic habitat and its functions are lost, and that loss is frequently greater than the
value of the substituted activity. In general, these kinds of problems are generated
by an unawareness of the natural values provided by a functioning system and by
the absence of planning for integrated development that takes these functions and
values into account as trade-offs.

Development of the watershed above a mangrove wetland may also negatively
impact the wetland (Tetra Tech 1992). Removal of watershed vegetation results
in soil erosion and subsequent siltation of the wetland (Tetra Tech 1992). Altering
groundwater patterns may either drown mangroves in the case of too much runoff,
or cause their death by diverting the water which sustains them. Much advance
planning and care during the construction process must be involved in watershed






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development. Runoff and encroachment from landfills is also problematic in the
USVI.

(4) Monitoring USVI Mangroves

The primary source of wetland impairment is dredging and filling, non-point source pollution,
construction intrusions, and sedimentation from upland runoff (DEP 2002). Wetland areas (i.e.,
mangroves and salt ponds) can be monitored in a number of ways, including:
1) Water quality,
2) Species abundance/diversity,
3) Sedimentation rates,
4) Percent cover, and
5) Monitoring development/construction.


Water Quality

Under the provisions of the Territorial Pollution Control Act of 1972 (Title 12, Chapter 7, Virgin
Islands Code), the Virgin Islands Water Pollution Control (WPC) Program is mandated to
conserve, protect, preserve, and improve the quality of water for public use, and for the
propagation of wildlife, fish, and aquatic life in the Virgin Islands. This includes the assurance
that all projects are in compliance with the Water Quality Standards as set forth in the VI
Environmental Laws and Regulations (specifically, Virgin Islands Code, Title 12, Chapter 7,
184, as interpreted below).

The role of the WPC program is to facilitate the preservation and where necessary make
improvements to water quality conditions so as to ensure that water quality standards are met; to
monitor health; and to ensure that permitted discharges to waters of the VI meet effluent
limitations. The DPNR/DEP is charged with the task of implementing and enforcing these
provisions (DEP 2002).

The WPC comprises two programs:

1) The Territorial Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) Program
involves the permitting of wastes to be discharged from point sources into the
waters of the VI, so as to ensure that those wastes meet the Water Quality Criteria
in the Virgin Island Code (VIC).

2) The Ambient Monitoring Program involves the collection of samples to
comprehensively evaluate coastal water quality.

The Ambient Monitoring Program involves the collection of water samples to comprehensively
evaluate coastal water quality. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and
Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) conduct the sampling with cooperation from the






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Under the Water Pollution Control Grant (pursuant to Clean Water Act (CWA) 106), the
Division of Environmental Protection has been entrusted with the task of monitoring the marine
waters of the USVI and controlling discharges to those waters. The Ambient Monitoring
Program involves the collection of samples which will give scientific data regarding water
quality, and the TPDES Program which involves the permitting of wastes to be discharged into
the waters of the Virgin Islands. Permitted effluents, however, must meet the Water Quality
Criteria as set forth in the Virgin Islands Code. Both programs work in conjunction with one
another to preserve the quality of the ambient marine waters for the people of the Virgin Islands.
The water quality standards are to be reviewed and, if necessary, updated every three years to
preserve the designated uses by including more criteria with which to monitor (DEP 2002).

For example, the water quality at Mangrove Lagoon and Benner Bay, St. Thomas has been
monitored irregularly between 1972 and 1993 by the Division of Environmental Protection
(DEP) to keep track of any changes in temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration, and
the concentration of nitrate, nitrite, and phosphorus that might be associated with development.
Nitrate, nitrite, and phosphorus were sampled in 1985 only. Water turbidity, suspended solids,
secchi depth, and fecal coliform levels have been monitored also. Data collected should give an
understanding of the impact of the development in the area on the lagoon ecosystem. Since the
Mangrove Lagoon-Benner Bay area is classified as a Class B wetland (used for propagation of
desirable species of marine life and for primary contact recreation such as swimming and water
skiing) with specific quality criteria (USVI Govt. 1979), the water condition of the area can be
compared to Class B standards (Phillip 1993).


Species Abundance Diversity

The Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) is presently establishing species diversity indices for
wetlands. Species diversity in wetlands varies according to the availability of water and
migration periods, together with other factors. As a result, any assessment of changes in living
resources is difficult to estimate. Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has undertaken a project to
create a current delineation of the wetlands in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Once a more current
delineation is completed, it may lead to more active wetland monitoring (DEP 2002). Species
abundance/diversity will be covered in more detail in the terrestrial wildlife portion of this plan.


Sedimentation Rates

One of the major challenges of habitat monitoring and assessment is to quantify the impact of
development on the marine environment, while accounting for natural variation in the measured
parameters. For management purposes, it is also important to determine the distribution of these
sediments across the nearshore environment and to know when thresholds in the allowable
amounts of sediment originating from a development are exceeded. Data on sedimentation rates
are important for nearshore habitats, all of which are vulnerable to sedimentation from dredging
operations and erosion. By collecting samples both at and above the substrate, one can estimate
the sediment being stirred up from and transported along the bottom (the "bedload" component)
as well as the sediment that is settling out of the water column.






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Over the past several decades the Virgin Islands have experienced rapid development from the
shoreline to the mountain tops. The removal of the natural vegetation and construction of
unpaved roads has greatly increased erosion rates relative to natural conditions (Anderson and
MacDonald 1998; and MacDonald et al. 1997). This load of silt and clay poses a direct threat to
the health of the corals and other reef organisms (Rogers 1990; and Sladek-Nowlis et al. 1997).
The Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has recognized this threat and has begun
to implement a strict code for developers proposing to build projects in sensitive shoreline areas.
In a recent case in St. Thomas, CZM required the developer of the Caret Bay Villas project to
install and maintain strict sediment control measures as recommended by the University of the
Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service (Wright 1997). These measures included minimal
disturbance of natural vegetation, properly built and maintained sediment fences and sediment
basins, and placement of straw matting on bare soils until vegetative ground cover was
established. The developer was also required to fund a 4-year monitoring program intended to
record the condition of the reef complex along the coast of the development and to determine if
there were any adverse effects on the reef environment due to development (Nemeth and Sladek-
Nowlis 2001).


Percent Cover

One of the most cost effective technologies for monitoring percent cover and the overall health
of mangroves, as well as other marine habitats, could be through the use of conventional aerial
photo interpretation assisted with GIS based image analysis. Aerial photographs were used to
develop the Benthic Habitats of the Florida Keys digital data atlas and just recently, a similar
effort was performed for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as part of the National Ocean
Service's continuing effort to document coastal resources (Kendall et al. 2001). Aerial
photographs were used to create maps of the region's coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove
forests, and other important habitats. In addition, remote sensing, as a monitoring tool, could be
used for:

1) Study of coral reefs;
2) Mapping of bottom topography;
3) Sedimentological studies;
4) Ecological mapping;
5) Studies of water circulation, sediment plumes, and effluent dispersal; and
6) Establishing a base survey for future studies of time-variant phenomena.


Monitoring Development/Construction

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) monitors wetlands to guarantee that
unpermitted activities are not taking place and that authorized activities are in full compliance
with permit requirements.






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(5) Current USVI Mangrove Management Measures

Federal Regulations Applicable to USVI Mangroves

Development within or near wetlands is regulated by several Federal statutory prohibitions and
incentives that are intended to slow wetland losses. Some of the more important of these are
contained in the 1899 Rivers and Harbors Act; the 1972 Clean Water Act and amendments; the
1985 Food Security Act; the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act; the 1986
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act; and the 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act. In the
following description of wetland-related Federal legislation, regulations that apply to States also
apply to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)
authority to regulate certain activities in navigable waters. Regulated activities include diking,
deepening, filling, excavating, and placing of structures. The related section 404 of the Clean
Water Act is the most often-used Federal legislation protecting wetlands (USGS 1994). Under
section 404 provisions, the Corps issues permits regulating the discharge of dredged or fill
material into wetlands. Permits are subject to review and possible veto by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has review and
advisory roles (USGS 1994). Section 401 of the Clean Water Act grants to States and eligible
Indian Tribes the authority to approve, apply conditions to, or deny section 404 permit
applications based on a proposed activity's probable effects on the water quality of a wetland.

Most farming, ranching, and silviculture forestationn) activities are not subject to section 404
regulation, but the "Swampbuster" provision of the 1985 Food Security Act and amendments in
the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act discourages (through financial
disincentives) the draining, filling, or other alteration of wetlands for agricultural use. The law
allows exemptions from penalties in some cases, especially if the farmer agrees to restore the
altered wetland or other wetlands that have been converted to agricultural use. The Wetland
Reserve Program of the 1990 Food, Agricultural, Conservation, and Trade Act authorized the
Federal Government to purchase conservation easements from landowners who agree to protect
or restore wetlands. The Consolidated Farm Service Agency (formerly the Agricultural
Stabilization and Conservation Service) administers the Swampbuster provisions and Wetlands
Reserve Program. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation
Service) determines compliance with Swampbuster provisions and assists farmers in the
identification of wetlands and in the development of wetland protection, restoration, or creation
plans.

The 1986 Emergency Wetlands Resources Act and the 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act and
amendments encourage wetland protection through funding incentives. The Emergency
Wetlands Resources Act requires States to address wetland protection in their Statewide
Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans to qualify for Federal funding for State recreational
land. The National Park Service (NPS) provides guidance in developing the wetland component
of their plans. Coastal states that adopt coastal zone management programs and plans approved
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are eligible for Federal funding and






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Large tracts of land, many containing wetlands, are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) and the National Park Service (NPS) (USGS 1994). The largest area in the
USVI managed by the USFWS is the 326-acre Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in
southwestern St. Croix (USGS 1994). The NPS manages most of the island of St. John, along
with extensive offshore areas adjacent to Park land, and BIRNM on St. Croix (USGS 1994). The
NPS has received authorization to acquire lands around Salt River Bay on St. Croix (to become
the Salt River Marine and Wildlife Sanctuary). Not only is this area one of the U.S. Virgin
Islands' most important remaining wetland complexes, but it is also a valuable historical
resource believed to be the landing site of Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the
Americas in 1493 (USGS 1994).


Territorial Regulations Applicable to USVI Mangroves

The USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) is the principal agency
requiring permit application for construction activities in the coastal zone, where wetlands
usually form (USGS 1994). This responsibility was granted to DPNR by the Coastal Zone
Management Act passed in 1978. In addition to evaluating permit requests, DPNR comments on
Federal permit applications to ensure consistency with the Coastal Zone Management Plan.
When wetland losses are unavoidable, DPNR requires mitigation actions to ameliorate
anticipated losses. DPNR also monitors wetlands to ensure that unpermitted activities are not
taking place and that authorized activities are in full compliance with permit requirements. The
Territorial Legislature adopted the Indigenous and Endangered Species Act of 1990, in which
section 104(e) establishes a policy of "no net loss of wetlands" to the maximum extent possible.

The national Coastal Zone Management Act, while noting the importance of the entire coastal
zone, declares that certain areas are of yet greater significance (NOAA 1988). As a prerequisite
to program approval, the Act requires "an inventory and designation of Areas of Particular
Concern" (Section 305(b)(3)). A number of these APC reports have been written, and all pertain
to wetland areas in the USVI (see Figures I-3 and I-4 in Chapter I). In addition, it is necessary
that "the management program makes provision for procedures whereby specific areas may be
designated for the purpose of preserving or restoring them for their conservation, recreational,
ecological, or esthetic value" (Section 306(c)(9)) (NOAA 1988).

St. Croix APC and APR (Areas for Preservation and Restoration) reports include:
1) Christiansted Waterfront APC (IRF 1993g);
2) Southgate Pond/Chenay Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993k);
3) St. Croix Coral Reef System APC and APR (IRF 1993m);
4) East End APC and APR (IRF 1992d);
5) Great Salt Pond Bay APC (IRF 1992e);
6) Southshore Industrial Area APC (IRF 19931);
7) Sandy Point APC (IRF 1993j);
8) Frederiksted Waterfront APC (IRF 1993h);
9) Salt River Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993i).






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St. Thomas APC and APR reports include:
1) St. Thomas Waterfront and Harbor APC (IRF 1993d);
2) Botany Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993a);
3) Magens Bay APC (IRF 1992a);
4) Mandahl Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993c);
5) Vessup Bay/Red Hook APC (IRF 1992b);
6) Mangrove Lagoon/Benner Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993b).

St. John APC and APR reports include:
1) Cruz Bay/Enighed Pond APC (IRF 1992c);
2) Chocolate Hole/Great Cruz Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993e);
3) Coral Bay APC and APR (IRF 1993f).


(6) Current USVI Mangrove Projects

Although interest in mangrove biology goes back a long time, scientific knowledge of this
intriguing ecosystem is still rudimentary, and key questions remain largely unanswered. Are
mangrove communities as rich and productive as other tropical environments? Is their role in
protecting juvenile fish indeed as important to commercial fisheries as many people believe? Do
mangrove swamps serve to protect coastlines from erosion? Although researchers have made
detailed observations of many different mangrove swamps around the world, a huge gap exists in
the understanding of how the different components of such intricate natural systems work
together.

Previous research on wetlands in the USVI has focused on: inventories of important saltwater
wetlands (Boulon and Griffin 1999; Knowles 1997; Norton 1986; Stengel 1998); the impact of
sedimentation on salt ponds (Nichols and Brush 1988); analyses of freshwater resources (Cosner
and Bogart 1972); a survey of fishes to assess the importance of mangroves as nurseries for
recreational fisheries (Adams and Tobias 1994; Adams and Ebersole 2002; Boulon 1991, and
1992; Dennis 1992; Mateo 2001a; Mateo and Tobias 2001; Mateo et al. 2002; Thayer et al. 1987;
and Tobias 1996, 1998, and 2001); environmental studies of Mangrove Lagoon/Benner Bay, St.
Thomas (Grigg et al. 1971; Olsen 1972, and 1973; Island Resources Foundation 1977d, and
1993b; Nichols and Towle 1977; and Nichols et al. 1979).

Currently, a project undertaken by the University of the Virgin Islands' MacLean Marine
Science Center (MMSC), and funded by the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College, will
make a quantitative assessment of nursery habitats for fishery stock enhancement (refer to UVI
website: http://marsci.uvi.edu/research.htm). To demonstrate the importance of mangrove and
seagrass habitats to reef fisheries production, studies will be carried out to quantitatively
determine the proportion of a population that pass through a nursery habitat before reaching a
reef and the actual rates of survival and growth experienced by fish in these different habitats.






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4. SEAGRASS BEDS

(1) General Description of Seagrass

Worldwide, there are approximately 45 species of marine seagrasses (Tetra Tech 1992).
Seagrasses are very productive systems. Zieman and Wetzel (1980) reported maximum
productivity of Thalassia of up to 16 g C/m2/day which suggests that tropical seagrass beds may
be one of the more productive communities existing. Most Caribbean seagrass beds are typified
by three species of angiosperms: turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), manatee grass (Syringodium
filiforme), and shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) (Ogden 1980). S. filiforme and H. wrightii
generally are the first to colonize bare sediments (Williams 1987). T. testudinum becomes
established later and gradually becomes the dominant seagrass (Williams 1987). Often, species
of macroalgae (e.g., Caulerpa and Halimeda) are interspersed between the grass blades and the
grass blades themselves are colonized by epiphytes. A fourth seagrass genus, Halophila, that
includes two species (H. decipiens and H. baillonis) does not generally occur in mixed beds of
the above species, but may be found in shallow turbid waters or to depths of 50 m (160 ft.) in
clear water due to its adaptation to low light intensity (Ogden 1980). A more detailed
description of the Caribbean seagrass community can be found in Ogden (1980).

Seagrasses are seed-producing, flowering marine plants (halophytes) that occur in shallow,
nearshore, temperate, and tropical waters (Snedaker and Getter 1985). They are able to
reproduce by vegetative spreading in addition to the annual production and dispersal of seeds.
As a benthic plant community, they are extremely productive and are associated with an
abundance and variety of small fishes and invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs (Thorhaug
1981). For these organisms, the seagrasses provide a habitat and source of food materials
consisting of the leaves of the grasses, and the epiphytes (mostly algae) that live on the leaf
surfaces as well as the microfauna and rich layer of microbes. The leaves and leaf detritus also
represent a food resource for many other marine animals (e.g., certain reef fishes, sea turtles,
conch) that regularly visit seagrass areas for feeding and foraging on both the plants and their
animal associates. Seagrass communities are also noted for their ability to trap and bind
sediments which prevents erosion of the shallow sediments (Thayer et al. 1975).

The seagrasses dominate many of the temperate and tropical coastal environments of the world
where there exists a suitable shallow substrate, having water of a high transparency and
occurring in areas that are relatively free of strong wave action (Snedaker and Getter 1985). As a
result, they are seldom found in any great abundance near high-energy beaches, particularly in or
near the surf zone, or in the deltaic areas of major rivers that carry high sediment loads. Their
broad range is further attributable to the fact that seagrasses as a whole can tolerate wide salinity
ranges which vary in concentration from that of almost fresh water to that of full-strength and
higher (hypersaline) seawater (Thayer et al. 1975).

Different genera and species of seagrasses are found at different optimal depths (Snedaker and
Getter 1985). The observed distributional patterns result from differing competitive adaptations
related to a complex set of environmental factors which include wave energy, currents, substrate




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