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Speakers at Oceans Summit Urge Young People to Take Action

Oct. 26, 2007 — It's up to today's young people to figure out how to save the earth, said several speakers at the 2007 Youth Summit on the Oceans: V.I. Future Leaders Turning the Tide.
"You are the type of individual who questions things, who has opinions and makes them known and who will challenge ideas," said Nicholas Drayton, the St. Croix-based Caribbean ecosystems manager for the Ocean Conservancy. "You are the type of individual who breaks molds."
The event kicked off Friday at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John. The conference will run through Tuesday, with activities shifting Saturday to St. Thomas.
Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, the event brought together about 37 youths ages 14 to 24 from both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The students applied to attend or were recruited because they participated in other conferences throughout the territories, Drayton said.
"I'm very interested in getting to know more about marine life," said Karen Bowen, 16, of Virgin Gorda.
Jeremy Jackson, an acclaimed professor of oceanography based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, served as the keynote speaker.
"What I want you to take away from this talk is what's going to happen if you don't get your act together," he told the youths.
In a graphic and dramatic presentation, Jackson, 64, spoke about the decline of the world's environment, a decline he has seen firsthand studying the world's oceans throughout his long career.
"Ecosystems are like Humpty Dumpty," he said. "They're easy to break and hard to put back together."
If the world continues on its present course, its coral reefs will be "toast," Jackson said. When Christopher Columbus explored the world starting in 1492, he saw fish large enough to ram his boat.
"The ocean was full of big stuff," he said. "It's gone."
To save the fish populations, fishing has to stop immediately, Jackson said.
"That's not popular politically," Delegate Donna M. Christensen countered. Jackson said he knew that was true, but without an end to overfishing, the fish will never recover. If the fish are allowed to recover the coral reefs will improve, but they'll never look like they once did, he said.
The only answer to overfishing is aquaculture, but that would take clear, clean waters that are fast disappearing, Jackson said. Even if fishing stops, he said, other problems like carbon emissions and the runoff of fertilizer into the water will cause an "Armageddon."
Addressing the problems caused by agriculture fertilizer flowing into rivers, lakes and oceans is also not politically popular, but that situation causes an overgrowth of algae that smothers reefs, Jackson noted.
"It's causing a big slime," he said. If introduced species like the Caulerpa taxifolia, which is smothering reefs off Costa Rica after escaping from aquariums, get into the Caribbean, "It's goodbye coral reefs."
If something isn't done about global warming, the entire island of St. Croix will disappear because its elevation is lower than St. Thomas, Jackson said.
Caroline Rogers, a marine ecologist based at the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John, painted a slightly brighter picture.
"The reefs are still worth protecting," she said. "It's not hopeless."
Local efforts such as closing fishing grounds for periods during the year are working, because she's starting to see more Nassau grouper, a species that was a rare sight for many years, Roger said.
"I'm seeing little hints that things are beginning to work," she said.
However, she said that the island's coral reefs lost 60 percent of their live coral since a fall 2005 bleaching event and a subsequent disease outbreak. Coral continues to die off from disease, she said.
Christensen, who served as honorary conference chairwoman, told the youths that they have opportunities to learn about the environment that she never had growing up on St. Croix.
"You will be so much better stewards of our natural resources," she said.
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Oct. 26, 2007 -- It's up to today's young people to figure out how to save the earth, said several speakers at the 2007 Youth Summit on the Oceans: V.I. Future Leaders Turning the Tide.
"You are the type of individual who questions things, who has opinions and makes them known and who will challenge ideas," said Nicholas Drayton, the St. Croix-based Caribbean ecosystems manager for the Ocean Conservancy. "You are the type of individual who breaks molds."
The event kicked off Friday at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John. The conference will run through Tuesday, with activities shifting Saturday to St. Thomas.
Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, the event brought together about 37 youths ages 14 to 24 from both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The students applied to attend or were recruited because they participated in other conferences throughout the territories, Drayton said.
"I'm very interested in getting to know more about marine life," said Karen Bowen, 16, of Virgin Gorda.
Jeremy Jackson, an acclaimed professor of oceanography based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, served as the keynote speaker.
"What I want you to take away from this talk is what's going to happen if you don't get your act together," he told the youths.
In a graphic and dramatic presentation, Jackson, 64, spoke about the decline of the world's environment, a decline he has seen firsthand studying the world's oceans throughout his long career.
"Ecosystems are like Humpty Dumpty," he said. "They're easy to break and hard to put back together."
If the world continues on its present course, its coral reefs will be "toast," Jackson said. When Christopher Columbus explored the world starting in 1492, he saw fish large enough to ram his boat.
"The ocean was full of big stuff," he said. "It's gone."
To save the fish populations, fishing has to stop immediately, Jackson said.
"That's not popular politically," Delegate Donna M. Christensen countered. Jackson said he knew that was true, but without an end to overfishing, the fish will never recover. If the fish are allowed to recover the coral reefs will improve, but they'll never look like they once did, he said.
The only answer to overfishing is aquaculture, but that would take clear, clean waters that are fast disappearing, Jackson said. Even if fishing stops, he said, other problems like carbon emissions and the runoff of fertilizer into the water will cause an "Armageddon."
Addressing the problems caused by agriculture fertilizer flowing into rivers, lakes and oceans is also not politically popular, but that situation causes an overgrowth of algae that smothers reefs, Jackson noted.
"It's causing a big slime," he said. If introduced species like the Caulerpa taxifolia, which is smothering reefs off Costa Rica after escaping from aquariums, get into the Caribbean, "It's goodbye coral reefs."
If something isn't done about global warming, the entire island of St. Croix will disappear because its elevation is lower than St. Thomas, Jackson said.
Caroline Rogers, a marine ecologist based at the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John, painted a slightly brighter picture.
"The reefs are still worth protecting," she said. "It's not hopeless."
Local efforts such as closing fishing grounds for periods during the year are working, because she's starting to see more Nassau grouper, a species that was a rare sight for many years, Roger said.
"I'm seeing little hints that things are beginning to work," she said.
However, she said that the island's coral reefs lost 60 percent of their live coral since a fall 2005 bleaching event and a subsequent disease outbreak. Coral continues to die off from disease, she said.
Christensen, who served as honorary conference chairwoman, told the youths that they have opportunities to learn about the environment that she never had growing up on St. Croix.
"You will be so much better stewards of our natural resources," she said.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.