Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FTV Leaving St.Thomas


As we depart St Thomas we are mindful of the beauty of this Caribbean Island and the amazing ecosystems that thrive here.  Careless tourism: Careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing happens around the world, with people touching reefs, stirring up sediment, collecting coral, and dropping anchors on reefs. Some tourist resorts and infrastructure have been built directly on top of reefs, and some resorts empty their sewage or other wastes directly into water surrounding coral reefs. More than ever we should be conscious and supportive of the efforts needed protect these habits.

Cameron McPartland, Wellfleet, MA reflects on his time in the Virgin Islands.

After almost two weeks at sea, I was ecstatic to finally get some time to relax and explore the first port. Being my first time in St. Thomas, I didn't know what to expect other than I knew I would make the most of my time here. I left the ship around ten in the morning with a couple of my friends and grabbed a bite to eat before heading out for the day. After eating some fresh local fish, we hopped onto a taxi and told the driver to bring us to the best beach on the Island.

A short drive ended us up at Coki Beach a small, pretty beach located on Coki Point, St Thomas.  The crystal clear water is usually very calm and deepens gradually.Near shore, there is a rocky reef area that offers great snorkeling. There is a dive shop on site and a jet ski rental booth located across the road, opposite the beach a few vendors rent snorkel gear and floats. which had jet skiing, snorkeling, and a few beachfront restaurants. The beach included reefs that we were allowed to swim around, where we saw an eight foot shark and tons of different Caribbean fish.

After a full day at the beach we went back to the boat, showered and got ready to go out for the night. A bunch of us went out to dinner and enjoyed a big meal then went exploring around the town and shopped for family members then returned to the ship to plan out our next big day and get some rest for the work ahead..

Coki Beach is located right next to Coral World Marine Park  which is a designated coral nursery site for the Virgin Islands Nature Conservancy’s Coral Restoration Program. 

Since the 1980s, a number of natural and manmade stressors have led to the population decline of Elkhorn (acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals throughout the Caribbean. These stressors include diseases, hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and algal overgrowth as well as direct and indirect human impacts. As a result, Elkhorn and Staghorn corals are listed as threatened and protected federally under the United States Endangered Species Act as well through local law.

In 2009, The Nature Conservancy received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build and maintain Elkhorn and Staghorn coral nurseries in Florida and the United States Virgin Islands. The goal of this project is to enhance coral populations by growing Elkhorn and Staghorn corals in seafloor nurseries and then transplanting nursery grown coral fragments to depleted reef sites.

Locally, coral nurseries have been built at two St Croix and two St Thomas sites. Conservancy scientists collect “fragments of opportunity”, which are fragments broken by natural process (storms, high wave action), that are further fragmented and grown in nurseries. The nurseries are maintained weekly to remove coral predators and to prevent the overgrowth of algae, which compete against the corals for space. To date, the Nature Conservancy has raised over 3,000 corals in the Virgin Island nurseries and out planted over 1,000 corals onto local reefs. By increasing the abundance and the genetic diversity at each site, the hope is to also assist in the recovery of these threatened species.

Watch this to see some conservation activities scientists are performing to restore coral reefs.

Coral reefs are in trouble around the globe. Already, 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost and another 16% were severely damaged during the 1998 El Niño event. Scientists predict that another 25% may be lost by the year 2035 if human threats are not reduced. Learn more 

You can do your part by researching an environmental or ocean issue, take a position on the issue and write a formal letter to an elected official voicing their position either in support or opposition.

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