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Beef Island and Tortola, British Virgin Islands.  Photo by R Moir

Virgin Islands Environmental Council

Dr. Quincy Lettsome, residents of the British Virgin Islands and local groups came together in 2007 to form an umbrella-representative group to take action to address development issues, to protect wildlife and precious salt pond, creek and mangrove habitats.

Victorious BVI Fisherfolk and VIEC

VIEC Concerns Justified in Court Hearing

April 25-28, 2009

Overview

photo_beefislandBeef Island BVI is threatened by not only construction of a five-star hotel, marina and golf course but also by a local order enabling all large developments to bypass environmental impact reviews and exemption from BVI’s stringent environmental safeguards. Estimated residential population of the completed development is 2,700 people that will require 415,000 gallons of water/day and generate 4.5 tons solid waste per day.

Beef Island is the sixth largest of the British Virgin Islands, 918 acres. It is situated directly east of Tortola and connected by a short two-lane bridge. The island hosts two sparsely populated settlements in the west and northern parts, either side of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.

photo_virginislandsBeef Island is the most important mangrove system in the entire central portions of BVI, second in acreage only to far-flung Anegada. All of Tortola’s nine mangrove ecosystems have either been destroyed or very negatively affected by development : Fat Hog’s Bay, Paraquita Bay, Fish Bay, Road Town and Wickham’s Cay, Slaney, Sea Cow’s Bay, Pockwood Pond, Nanny Cay and Soper’s Hole. Once nurseries for hatchlings and juvenile fish, home for lobster and conch, loafing kitchens for waders and waterfowl, are now reduced to one portion of Beef Island. If that goes, so goes the entire base and foundation for BVI fisheries.

West Indian Whistling Ducks

West Indian Whistling Ducks

Inland of the mangrove fringe lies precious salt ponds, the largest one triangular in shape, and BVI’s only remaining primary dry coastal woodlands, “The Bluff.” Behind a fringing reef with 100% live coral cover on the fore-reef, behind coral rubble shoreline, sheltered by a dense stand of red, black and white mangroves, lies a complex wetland system in a shallow area of quiet water, the “Hans Creak Lagoon System.”

Researchers (1996) compared settlement and recruitment rates for important fish species in the BVI including three sample sites on Beef Islands southeast coast. They found that 50-80% of the commercially important species were caught in traps set in Hans Creek.

Location: British Virgin Islands