March 18, 2005 The Department of Planning and Natural Resources' Division of Fish and Wildlife Monday has set a series of public meetings on a proposed Marine Resources and Fisheries Strategic and Comprehensive Conservation Plan.
The first meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Legislature building in Cruz Bay.
Subsequent meetings will be held April 7 at the V.I. Gamefishing Club in Red Hook, St. Thomas and April 8 at the University of the Virgin Islands Research Extension room on St. Croix. Those meeting will also run from 7 to 9 p.m.
The department must develop a plan to manage the territory's fisheries and marine resources if it expects to get grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It currently has no plan.
The department has developed a draft plan on whichRoger Uwate, chief of Fisheries, will make a 40-minute presentation. The public will then be able to comment on the plan.
"Anybody who's interested," chief of Fisheries Roger Uwate said Friday.
The 492-page plan is filled with lots of charts as well as text.
The department surveyed various user groups as well as the public when developing the plan. According to the plans' executive summary, those surveyed listed eight problems to be addressed. They are pollution, lack of enforcement, gill nets, over fishing, traps, long lines, habitat degradation, and lack of moorings.
Suggestions for addressing problems included improve enforcement, more education, pollution control, deploy more Fish Attracting Devices, develop more artificial reefs, and develop and improve boat and public access.
Uwate said that lots of the solutions are outside the scope of Fish and Wildlife, and the plan lists each department, division or agency that is responsible for implementing solutions.
"We can't tell Enforcement what to do," he said, referring to Planning's Enforcement Division.
However, he said that shedding light on the problems may help the Enforcement Division, as well as other departments find solutions.
Uwate said the plan must go to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service for its approval.
"But so far, Fish and Wildlife likes what we've done," he said.
A PDF file of the plan is available at http://www.vifishandwildlife.com/fish.htm.
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