May 26, 2004 – With a belief that promoting fish farming might generate a new economic engine in the Virgin Islands, Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd recently wrote Gov. Charles Turnbull, asking him to take action on a bill that was signed into law in 2001.
Liburd is asking the governor to appoint members to the V. I. Commission on Aquaculture and Mariculture, the provisions for which are contained in Act No. 6741. In a letter last week, Liburd urged executive action, saying "the development of an aquaculture and mariculture industry in the Virgin Islands will provide numerous jobs, serve as a local food source and provide additional revenues to our financially strapped government through the sale and export of certain species of fish, shellfish and other seafood."
The challenge, Liburd said, is to get the governor to overcome his reluctance to solicit board members. He added that it should not be such a daunting task, given the amount of interest in fish farming.
"I'm asking the governor again to name the commission so they could go forward in trying to establish this industry," he said Monday.
The potential economic rewards are evident, Liburd said, citing figures recently provided by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Those figures, confirmed Tuesday by Commissioner Dean Plaskett, say local fishermen harvested 1.4 million pounds of seafood last year.
Plaskett said the figures are based on reports the department gets from the fishermen.
Plaskett said research shows that some species of local fish could do very well as part of a fish farming enterprise, but others have not been proven to have the same potential.
Although Plaskett has concerns about the particulars of fish farming, he said the idea is worthy of support "The concept, I highly endorse the concept."
There are also reports coming from sources close to the Economic Development Commission that business interests tied to aquaculture in North and South America are interested in the warm waters of the Virgin Islands and would like to explore the potential of setting up a similar enterprise here.
According to Liburd, the success of this effort would translate into creating jobs, supplying a local market with affordable food products and generating revenues for the V.I. government.
Liburd said it would be up to members of the aquaculture commission to find the most viable species to raise as part of a fish farming enterprise. "I think the timing is right. We just need to move forward. I would be strongly behind it and I think the other members would be interested in doing the same thing," he said.
Sen. Luther Renee, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, has also advocated support for Act 6741.
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