May 29, 2003 – Enforcement officers of the Virgin Islands National Park and the Planning and Natural Resources Department met this week to discuss how to allow continued fishing within the waters of the recently established Coral Reef Monument off St. John's south shore and east end.
Most fishing is prohibited in the now federally protected area, but one species, blue runner, also called hardnose, can still legally be caught.
Steve Clark, the park's chief of enforcement, said the input of local fishermen is wanted to help park officials decide where to set up six moorings where people will be allowed to tie up their vessels — up to 60 feet in length — and use handlines. They will be able to fish for free but will have to obtain a permit from the park, he said.
It was decided to install the six moorings "in the interest of sound management and to assist the fishermen that are after the blue runner," Clark said. The moorings "will be placed throughout the monument at the direction of particular fishermen," he said, between Cabrittehorn Point and Ram Head, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. They are expected to be in place by July.
Fishermen who have fish traps in the monument waters will have to remove them, he said.
The park is getting help from Planning and Natural Resources in enforcing the new rules. On Wednesday, Clark met with DPNR enforcement chief Lucia Francis to discuss the mooring plan.
The park's resource management team is working on a separate mooring plan for Hurricane Hole. Rafe Boulon, park chief of resource management, said 11 moorings should be in place sometime this summer. Two will be reserved for commercial and charter boats, he said, the rest will be available to private vessels visiting the area for the day or overnight.
Park officials are also working on an emergency mooring system to be used in case of a hurricane or tropical storm. Boulon said the system will not be ready for the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins in June, but a plan is in the works to accommodate vessels seeking shelter in the event of an approaching storm.
"After the first bona fide storm threat … people can move in there and anchor their vessels," he said. "We're only requiring that people not tie to mangroves, because that damages the mangroves."
Boulon defined a "bona fide storm" as a significant storm on track to pass through the territory within 96 hours or less. "This season, after the first threat passes," he said, boaters "can leave their gear in place, with a buoy marked with their name and vessel registration number."
Boaters wishing to do also will have to write to the National Park Service stating what kind of gear they are leaving, where it is, and how it is marked.
With notification govern to the park, emergency anchor systems that are properly marked will be allowed to remain in place for the duration of the hurricane season.
Fishermen are asked to provide input on the optimum positioning for the six moorings by calling Boulon at 693-8950, ext. 224, or Clark at 776-6201, ext. 254; by mailing suggestions in writing to Virgin Islands National Park, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John VI 00830; or by faxing them to 693-9500. Probably the easiest way, though, is to go by the National Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay and ask for Clark, who will provide a map for indicating the suggested locations.
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