STARK CHOICE Black-necked Stilts and
White-Rumped Sandpipers feed at Beef Island salt pond. OR, Developers' plan to replace salt pond with cement-lined mega-marina and to replace mangroves with beaches, imported sand with cabanas in semi-circles.
Court says BVI Fisheries Protected Area Law Can Not Stop Developers from Building onto Fish Nurseries and Turtle Grass
The Virgin Islands Environmental Council’s worst nightmare happened on August 12, 2011 when the Court ruled that Hans Creek Fisheries Protected Area, a mangrove shored fish nursery with fringing coral reefs and turtle grass on the west side of Beef Island, does not have legal standing to stop unregulated developers from building into the area. Islanders came together to form VIEC to protect this marine area plus Trellis Bay and the five salt ponds of Beef Island from their government’s urging (permitting) of over-sized developments for political gains. When faced with unexpected costs of having to fly in and host barristers from London to defend their natural resources, “nature’s little secrets,” VIEC asked for assistance from the Ocean River Institute. Now we must rally once more with your letters and personal comments. Tell the BVI Premier to respect the spirit of the law calling for a fisheries protected area. Tell the BVI Premier to save the fish nurseries, turtle grass beds, coral reefs, mangroves and the five salt ponds of Beef Island.
Save BVI. Write to the Premier.
Beef Island’s Hans Creek Fishery has been recognized since 2003 as a fisheries protected area. The court ruling nullifies and removes legal protections of the marine area. Hans Creek, named for Captain Kidd’s first mate, Ham, with mangrove shore, turtle grass beds and coral reefs was designated protected because 90% of the commercially valuable fish spend a portion of their lives in these waters, mostly as young fish. Beef Island also contains the largest acreage and shore line of pristine mangroves in the region. Beef Island, beyond the airport, is all that is left unspoiled by developers for the people of Tortola. Click here to learn more about Beef Island’s mangroves. Listen to Ras Mangrove by
Bert Lettsome, a.k.a. 'Washasha X', Chief Conservation Officer.
The Court’s judgment handed down on August 12th finds that Hans Creek is not legally a protected area. The ruling invalidates all 14 of BVI’s designated Fisheries Protected Areas, undoing the Fisheries Regulations of 1997 that set up these areas. The decision is troubling for many reasons. It takes away legal protections for all 14 fisheries protected areas. Without these areas the fish population would suffer, which would hurt the local economy and mean less fish to eat. The ruling, arguing that the fisheries protection law was ineffective, suggests the Government would not seek to uphold a protected area designation even if it was in their interest to do so. The ruling belittles the importance of Beef Island’s fisheries to the survival of mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass habitat, and as a source of income from fishing and eco-tourism.
The Virgin Island Environmental Council plans to challenge the government on this ruling. VIEC can only return to Court due to assistance from the Ocean River Institute. Please help us prevent the loss of natural marine and coastal resources.
The Court never challenged VIEC’s finding that the Hans Creek Fisheries Protected Area would suffer negative environmental impacts from development. However, to challenge the legal validity of the marine protected area is a setback to the VIEC’s past successful efforts in Court to undo the government’s planning approval of Quorum Island BVI Limited’s plans for building a five-star hotel, golf course, and mega-yacht marina on Beef Island. There was no challenge to the environmental facts, which is what makes this ruling so galling. Coastal ecosystems are further impacted negatively by the inevitable influx of outsourced labor. Tortola’s population is already stretched to the limit with severe impacts to environment, beginning with problems as simple as trash collection and processing. Charlotte McDevitt of GreenVI.org talks BVI trash with Rob.
This decision to take away the British Virgin Islanders’ law to protect a marine resource through responsible stewardship must be overruled. Or else, the rule may enable the undoing of environmental management efforts for British Territories around the world.
Court Strikes Down Fisheries Protected Area, Platinum News report Aug 17.
Birds Sighted at Beef Island Salt Ponds, the British Virgin Islands