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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 4, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesFINANCE TO TACKLE WILTED MARINE INDUSTRY

FINANCE TO TACKLE WILTED MARINE INDUSTRY

A six-time president of the Virgin Islands Marine Industries Association, Rik Van Rensselaer, will be the first testifier when the Finance Committee meets Thursday to address marine industry issues. This is a sector of the economy that has fallen off drastically since the 1980s.
The hearing was called by Finance Committee Chairwoman Alicia "Chucky" Hansen to "hear testimony from individuals from the general public on issues relative to the marine industry as we seek to recover lost revenues from this very important industry."
Van Renssealaer, currently VIMI's vice-president, said he had not been contacted by anyone to appear. However, he called and volunteered when he heard about the meeting. He said he is contacting other current and past VIMI board members to encourage them to attend.
Hansen is right to be concerned about an industry that has shrunk from a $100 million-a-year enterprise in the 1980s to about $30 million by 1993, according to a 1994 position paper by VIMI that refers only to the marine recreation industry. The figures were extrapolated from a survey done around the same time called the Strickland Quinn Survey.
"During the 1980s," the paper said, "we were a growing industry — reaching a high point of more than 300 term-charter yachts, more than 700 bareboats in 64 fleets, numerous day boats and sport fishing boats and, in season, 30 to 40 of the world's largest mega-yachts. Millions of dollars flowed into this economy and our sights were set on becoming a $200 million industry before the end of the 20th century."
However, by 1993, VIMI said the industry's contribution had fallen below $30 million.
A 3 percent marine excise tax that had long been uncollected was suddenly enforced around that time. VIMI felt that helped propel the marine recreation industry to cast off for "friendlier waters," namely the British Virgin Islands.
Departing boaters also cited a "marine-unfriendly government" whose restrictive policies hurt the industry.
"In the end analysis," the paper said, "the major reason for the decline of our marine industry can be laid at the feet of the government of the Virgin Islands, whose attitude fiscally and bureaucratically has almost killed the goose that lays the golden egg."
In 1997, Gov. Roy L. Schneider assigned Elmo D. Roebuck to head a task force on marine issues, an offshoot of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Marine Committee.
At the time, the sport fishing industry — which, according to Harry Clinton, then-chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Fishery Advisory Committee, was bringing in an estimated $25 million mostly during the summer off-season — was being threatened by officials of the British Virgin Islands. The B.V.I. was attempting to prohibit United States-registered game-fishing boats from fishing in B.V.I. waters, a practice previously allowed by "custom and tradition." Effectively this would have prevented the boats from going to a fish-rich area known as the "north drop."
A contingent of marine representatives met with B.V.I. officials to try to reach an understanding; Schneider said a memorandum of understanding had been drafted and would be signed, but nothing came of it. The issue of recreational fishing at the "north-drop" has remained in limbo.
Schneider also committed $300,000 from federal hazard-mitigation funds to install mooring systems in safe harbors around the islands. That project was never completed either.
Another complicating factor is that the Bureau of Economic Research has no record of how much the industries contribute to the economy, according to a source within the bureau.
Van Rensselaer said the new Legislature also needs to help get rid of the "six-pack" rule prohibiting more than six people aboard a boat that has not been inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Anyone interested in testifying Thursday is asked to call Janet Foster on St. Croix at 712-2222 or Alicia Leerdam on St. Thomas at 774-0660, ext. 227.

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A six-time president of the Virgin Islands Marine Industries Association, Rik Van Rensselaer, will be the first testifier when the Finance Committee meets Thursday to address marine industry issues. This is a sector of the economy that has fallen off drastically since the 1980s.
The hearing was called by Finance Committee Chairwoman Alicia "Chucky" Hansen to "hear testimony from individuals from the general public on issues relative to the marine industry as we seek to recover lost revenues from this very important industry."
Van Renssealaer, currently VIMI's vice-president, said he had not been contacted by anyone to appear. However, he called and volunteered when he heard about the meeting. He said he is contacting other current and past VIMI board members to encourage them to attend.
Hansen is right to be concerned about an industry that has shrunk from a $100 million-a-year enterprise in the 1980s to about $30 million by 1993, according to a 1994 position paper by VIMI that refers only to the marine recreation industry. The figures were extrapolated from a survey done around the same time called the Strickland Quinn Survey.
"During the 1980s," the paper said, "we were a growing industry — reaching a high point of more than 300 term-charter yachts, more than 700 bareboats in 64 fleets, numerous day boats and sport fishing boats and, in season, 30 to 40 of the world's largest mega-yachts. Millions of dollars flowed into this economy and our sights were set on becoming a $200 million industry before the end of the 20th century."
However, by 1993, VIMI said the industry's contribution had fallen below $30 million.
A 3 percent marine excise tax that had long been uncollected was suddenly enforced around that time. VIMI felt that helped propel the marine recreation industry to cast off for "friendlier waters," namely the British Virgin Islands.
Departing boaters also cited a "marine-unfriendly government" whose restrictive policies hurt the industry.
"In the end analysis," the paper said, "the major reason for the decline of our marine industry can be laid at the feet of the government of the Virgin Islands, whose attitude fiscally and bureaucratically has almost killed the goose that lays the golden egg."
In 1997, Gov. Roy L. Schneider assigned Elmo D. Roebuck to head a task force on marine issues, an offshoot of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Marine Committee.
At the time, the sport fishing industry — which, according to Harry Clinton, then-chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Fishery Advisory Committee, was bringing in an estimated $25 million mostly during the summer off-season — was being threatened by officials of the British Virgin Islands. The B.V.I. was attempting to prohibit United States-registered game-fishing boats from fishing in B.V.I. waters, a practice previously allowed by "custom and tradition." Effectively this would have prevented the boats from going to a fish-rich area known as the "north drop."
A contingent of marine representatives met with B.V.I. officials to try to reach an understanding; Schneider said a memorandum of understanding had been drafted and would be signed, but nothing came of it. The issue of recreational fishing at the "north-drop" has remained in limbo.
Schneider also committed $300,000 from federal hazard-mitigation funds to install mooring systems in safe harbors around the islands. That project was never completed either.
Another complicating factor is that the Bureau of Economic Research has no record of how much the industries contribute to the economy, according to a source within the bureau.
Van Rensselaer said the new Legislature also needs to help get rid of the "six-pack" rule prohibiting more than six people aboard a boat that has not been inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Anyone interested in testifying Thursday is asked to call Janet Foster on St. Croix at 712-2222 or Alicia Leerdam on St. Thomas at 774-0660, ext. 227.