[British Virgin Islands] While vowing that the government will continue to protect the environment, Minister of Natural Resources Dr Kedrick Pickering disclosed that 930 bags of seaweed were removed from the territory’s waters over the last year, adding that the seaweed was delivered to the Agriculture Department for use in the agricultural industry.
He did not state the size of the bags, but noted that the influx of Sargassum seaweed was one of the challenges his ministry faced over the one-year period.
“The influx of Sargassum seaweed left many beaches and bays covered with seaweed, and impacted marine life. The Department mobilized community support to assist in the removal of seaweed from coastal areas and, through the participation over eight organizations, 930 bags of seaweed were collected and delivered to the Agriculture Department for use in the agricultural sector,” Dr Pickering said, while noting that public awareness campaigns were also hosted.
He made mention of a regional conference which, according to him, focused on the means to harness the economic and ecological benefits of the Sargassum.
“The regional exchange which included partners from the non-governmental, scientific and commercial communities resulted in the determining a pathway for further collaboration and dialogue to address future incidences of Sargassum over-abundance within the Members States of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the wider region,” Dr Pickering further said.
In his 2016 State of the Environment Address, which covers a plethora of issues regarding the environment, Dr Pickering also stated that the Conservation and Fisheries Department’s responses to the seaweed problem included water quality testing at areas coinciding with high Sargassum influxes.
“Results at these areas, which included Sea Cows Bay, Road Town and East End Harbour yielded unhealthy dissolved oxygen levels, which led to some of the massive marine life die-offs.
The Department also tested other areas, such as East End Bridge and Little Mountain dock on Beef Islands, where the dissolved oxygen amounts were very good, and which served as good comparisons.”
Dr Pickering, in the meantime, said the Conservation and Fisheries Department remains effective through what he described as the consistent revision of its policies and legislation for better management of the natural resources and fishing industry.
“The Ministry and the Department have begun to vigorously implement our Climate Change Adaptation Policy,” he said. “The Virgin Islands Natural Resources Management and Climate Change Bill is undergoing major revision, and it is anticipated that public consultation on the principles of the Bill will be a major drive and focus during the upcoming period.”
Dr Pickering also promised that, as new challenges emerge, his ministry and departments ‘will continue to search for solutions so as to ensure that we pass on a natural environment of which we can be proud.”
“The importance of the environment cannot be underestimated as it contributes $200 million to our economy, according to a study undertaken by the University of Amsterdam and the Wolfs Institute,” the minister noted.
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