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HomeNewsArchivesSANDY POINT WILDLIFE REFUGE TO GET $500K

SANDY POINT WILDLIFE REFUGE TO GET $500K

St. Croix’s Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, a key nesting area for endangered leatherback sea turtles, will soon see $500,000 from environmental crime penalties.
The $500,000 was presented Thursday to Whitney Tilt of the National Wildlife Foundation, a Congressionally mandated organization –- not affiliated with the private National Wildlife Federation -– that administers money derived from civil penalties and court-ordered restitution.
The half-million dollars came from a $18 million penalty paid by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for environmental crimes committed in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, New York, Alaska, California and Florida. Locally, the cruise line dumped hazardous materials into the sea while docked in Frederiksted and falsified oil discharge reports while in St. Thomas, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nissman.
For the local crimes, Royal Caribbean was penalized $1.5 million in the District Court of the Virgin Islands. A third of that penalty will be used for land acquisition at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sandy Point Refuge and to help fund the National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, said Mike Evans, manager of the refuge.
The Sandy Point refuge, established in 1984, plays a major role in ensuring the survival of endangered leatherback sea turtles, Evans said. Over the last 50 years worldwide leatherback populations have plummeted because of lost nesting habitat, drowning in fishing nets and over-hunting.
"What that says to us is that we have to be very careful in what we’re managing," Evans said. "This nesting population (at Sandy Point) is one of two on the planet that has a stable nesting habitat.
"The payoff is that the turtles are increasing," he said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will use the penalty proceeds to expand the 380-acre Sandy Point refuge. Negotiations for land purchases are expected to be finalized over the next several months, Evans said.
"Land acquisition will be the primary thing," he said. "Frankly, if we don’t acquire this habitat the wildlife will lose it."
Helping preserve endangered species was just one positive byproduct of prosecuting the Royal Caribbean case, Nissman said.
"Our job as prosecutors is attack…," he said. "What’s really wonderful . . . is, this is one of those rare times we can help the community in a particular way.
"It’s fitting that the money from an environmental case . . . will go back to protecting the natural resources here."
Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty to discharging "gray water" that contained toxic heavy-metal silver from the ship Song of America’s photo lab and perchlorosthylene from its dry cleaner every time it was docked in Frederiksted in the summer and fall of 1994, according to the federal government.
The cruise line also admitted that in March 1997 in St. Thomas, crew members submitted a false oil record book to the Coast Guard for the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship. Similar practices were conducted onboard the ship from approximately Nov. 20, 1996, through March 1997.
As part of the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean will be on probation for five years and will continue to report quarterly on its environmental compliance plan, approved by a federal judge in the Southern District. That district is one of six, including the V.I., Alaska, the Southern District of New York, Puerto Rico and the Central District of California, where Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty to 21 environmental offenses totaling $18 million. The company paid an additional $9 million in 1998 for other violations.

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St. Croix’s Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, a key nesting area for endangered leatherback sea turtles, will soon see $500,000 from environmental crime penalties.
The $500,000 was presented Thursday to Whitney Tilt of the National Wildlife Foundation, a Congressionally mandated organization –- not affiliated with the private National Wildlife Federation -– that administers money derived from civil penalties and court-ordered restitution.
The half-million dollars came from a $18 million penalty paid by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for environmental crimes committed in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, New York, Alaska, California and Florida. Locally, the cruise line dumped hazardous materials into the sea while docked in Frederiksted and falsified oil discharge reports while in St. Thomas, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nissman.
For the local crimes, Royal Caribbean was penalized $1.5 million in the District Court of the Virgin Islands. A third of that penalty will be used for land acquisition at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sandy Point Refuge and to help fund the National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, said Mike Evans, manager of the refuge.
The Sandy Point refuge, established in 1984, plays a major role in ensuring the survival of endangered leatherback sea turtles, Evans said. Over the last 50 years worldwide leatherback populations have plummeted because of lost nesting habitat, drowning in fishing nets and over-hunting.
"What that says to us is that we have to be very careful in what we’re managing," Evans said. "This nesting population (at Sandy Point) is one of two on the planet that has a stable nesting habitat.
"The payoff is that the turtles are increasing," he said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will use the penalty proceeds to expand the 380-acre Sandy Point refuge. Negotiations for land purchases are expected to be finalized over the next several months, Evans said.
"Land acquisition will be the primary thing," he said. "Frankly, if we don’t acquire this habitat the wildlife will lose it."
Helping preserve endangered species was just one positive byproduct of prosecuting the Royal Caribbean case, Nissman said.
"Our job as prosecutors is attack...," he said. "What’s really wonderful . . . is, this is one of those rare times we can help the community in a particular way.
"It’s fitting that the money from an environmental case . . . will go back to protecting the natural resources here."
Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty to discharging "gray water" that contained toxic heavy-metal silver from the ship Song of America’s photo lab and perchlorosthylene from its dry cleaner every time it was docked in Frederiksted in the summer and fall of 1994, according to the federal government.
The cruise line also admitted that in March 1997 in St. Thomas, crew members submitted a false oil record book to the Coast Guard for the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship. Similar practices were conducted onboard the ship from approximately Nov. 20, 1996, through March 1997.
As part of the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean will be on probation for five years and will continue to report quarterly on its environmental compliance plan, approved by a federal judge in the Southern District. That district is one of six, including the V.I., Alaska, the Southern District of New York, Puerto Rico and the Central District of California, where Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty to 21 environmental offenses totaling $18 million. The company paid an additional $9 million in 1998 for other violations.