Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent Wheatley said the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) has had a devastating impact on the Territory’s reefs and has been found at 33 dive sites.
Honourable Wheatley said in a statement titled “Update on the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” during the Seventh Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly stated that the cost of doing nothing would be tremendous to the Territory’s natural environment and economy. He said the Coral Strike Team (CST) has been expanded since its creation to include Non-Governmental Organisations and a variety of diving companies to combat the disease.
Honourable Wheatley said, “The Coral Strike team (CST) which was created, and led by the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands
is made up of officers from the trust, the Environmental Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration and Beyond the Reef, a local non-governmental organisation who are working assiduously to save this precious resource.”
The minister said late December of 2020, the team expanded with volunteers from Dive Corporation, Dive BVI, We Be Diving, SunChaser SCUBA, Cuan Law, Blue Water Divers and Sail Caribbean. “Divers were trained in coral identification, disease diagnosis, monitoring protocols and treatment measures,” he said.
Honourable Wheatley further explained that educational components such as a three-part cartoon series as well as water proof materials have been created to increase awareness and sensitise boaters on how to fight against the disease.
“These and other efforts are aimed to ensure that our beautiful reefs continue to provide the ecosystem services that are critical to our biodiversity, infrastructure and economy, the minister said. He added, “I commend those who are tirelessly working to abate the worse impacts of coral disease. I also implore boaters to adhere to the requests made. The well-being and longevity of our reefs and natural environment must be safeguarded for the benefit of our and future generations, which is of paramount importance to this Government.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration continues to effectively manage and administer the natural resources of the Territory in a manner that ensures long term sustainability.