Home News Local news SRO CROWD HEARS VIEWS ON MARINE MANAGEMENT

SRO CROWD HEARS VIEWS ON MARINE MANAGEMENT

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At a Wednesday meeting on managing coral reefs in the territory, Rachel Roberts, a Pine Peace School teacher, introduced her fifth- and sixth-grade students who have been studying marine life in National Park waters and have become, they said, "caretakers" of the island's marine habitats.
The students each spoke of the satisfaction they get from visiting park waters and asked that all V.I. residents become caretakers so the beauty of our waters could be enjoyed forever.
Not all the comments at the St. John meeting, presented by Interior Department and local officials to get public input on the Clinton administration's Coral Reef Initiative, were as even-handed.
"Tell Mr. Clinton, you are not going to come down here and starve us and then put us on reservations," former St. John Administrator James Dalmida Jr. told the standing-room-only crowd. Dalmida said he holds four federal permits to fish and sell fish, and "it is not the fishermen who are destroying our marine life."
Most agreed that a fair management plan has to take into account all those who use and enjoy the islands' waters.
Part of the meetings on the three big islands has been devoted to familiarizing the public with submerged lands in the territory conveyed to the federal government through the 1974 Territorial Submerged Land Act.
Most agreed that poor land use practices and resulting pollution pose a serious threat to marine resources. Participants pointed out that even the National Park is guilty of contributing to the sediment and runoff from dirt roads, construction sites and bare yards that kills coral reefs and seagrass beds.
Boaters need to be aware of damage caused by pumping their bilge into the water and by dropping anchor in sensitive areas, attendees said. And government needs to curtail the dumping of untreated sewage into the water.
As St. John resident Jeff Miller puts it, "There is no one group to blame. We are all at fault."

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