First and most importantly, I am the Staff Scientist for the St. Thomas Fishermen's Association. DPNR has been late in coming to our support and we have been carrying the fight to the Feds through the support of our members, over 6000 members of the Virgin Islands public who signed petitions and local politicians who have gone to bat for us.
We have to thank our supporters, what progress we have made has come from the fact that the Virgin Islands spoke with one voice against these draconian measures. Senators Hill and Berry have been constantly supportive and Senator Hill has a resolution before the Senate that Collette Monroe read at the CFMC meeting. The National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Director blanched when it was read. Tony Cyntje from Senator Berry's office also carried the fight to the Feds and we thank both of them.
We especially thank our wonderful Delegate to Congress, Donna Christian who has spent considerable time on our behalf and who has introduced a bill to the Congress to extend Virgin Islands waters to match Puerto Rico's, Territorial sea. She sat through the long and tedious meeting in San Juan and provided valuable and supportive testimony. Eddie Delagarde from her office has been invaluable in helping us.
We would even like to thank Barbara Kojis of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, who we frequently criticize. She and Monica Lester really fought the fight for us yesterday. Our other representative, Virdin Brown continued his long history of selling out the fishermen and the people of the Virgin Islands. May he get his just reward in the future!
What we got was significant.
1. The big closures on both shelves were removed from consideration.
2. St. Croix fishermen will be able to fish for conch on the Lang Bank although St. Thomas/St. John fishermen will only be able to fish for conch in Territorial waters.
3. Yellow tail fishing will not be restricted.
4. St. Croix fishermen will not be able to use their nets in Federal waters.
5. Fishery regulations in State and Federal waters for Nassau grouper and Yellowfin grouper will be uniform.
6. The planned closure for Red Hind will be limited to the already identified protected area.
7. The plan to close the Grammanik Bank year round to trap fishing will be limited to a smaller area.
8. The area closed for the Grammanik Bank will be smaller after this year.
9. Mutton snapper will be off limits from April 1 to June 30.
10. A plan for bag limits for recreational fishermen will be developed for both Territorial and Federal waters
11. Fish traps will have to have one buoy per trap or trap string.
12. Spawning aggregations for Red Hind, Mutton Snapper and Yellowfin Grouper will be protected.
In addition we made real headway to insure that Virgin Islands fishermen have a real voice in future planning through direct negotiations with the Council.
There is still a long way to go before Virgin Islands resources are properly managed, but we are pleased with the progress that was made at this week's meeting.
David A. Olsen, Ph.D.
St. Thomas Fishermen's Association