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It Just May Be Too Late

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Dear Source:

How appropriate that the 2 articles "Longterm Pain from Short-Term Gain: Commercial Divers Take Big Risks" and "Global Warming an Ongoing Threat to Coral Reefs, International Report Says" appeared in the same issue of Source. They are very closely related.
First, the lobster and fish divers described in the first article are not what are commonly known as "commercial divers". Commercial divers are regulated by OSHA (among other government agencies) and are required to adhere to very strict safety procedures, in addition to having had received thorough training. Although most commercial diver's tasks include things like construction and/or inspection of underwater structures or ships, their tasks are varied and are carried out safely. In my over 20 years as a certified commercial diver in the Virgin Islands, we have never had a bends case with one of our divers. The lobster and fish divers here in the Virgin Islands, as the article states, are usually not trained properly for the work they do and are certainly not certified as commercial divers.
Reading the two articles is alarming. Not only are the reefs in the Virgin Islands dying (from a variety of causes), the over-fishing of our waters is adding insult to this injury. The fact that the lobster and fish divers are having to go deeper and deeper to "make a living" shows that their prey are becoming fewer and fewer. Everyone who was here remembers "the old days" of abundant fish and lobster. To allow this continuing over-fishing to happen in our declining coral reefs is a sure recipe for disaster. We may not be able to stop the present decline of our reef's living corals, but we can reduce the impact of over-fishing by reducing the allowed catch. This may just be the help the reefs need to let them recover.
In my over 30 years as a biologist and professional diver here in the Virgin Islands, I have seen and documented the serious decline in the health of our reefs and the number of creatures that live in them. We must convince our elected officials to reduce or stop this over-fishing of our resources. They belong to all of us here, not just a few. If this
impact on our reefs continues it just may be too late for it to ever recover and it will all die.
Henry E. Tonnemacher
Christiansted, St. Croix

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