I have been diving almost every year during the holidays on St. Croix for over 16 years. As a yearly diver I have had a good chance to be able to see the impact on the St. Croix's reefs. Whether this impact is from fishermen, divers, real estate development, weather or pollution from WAPA and Hess there is certainly a change on the reef as a whole.
Over the past few years this impact has become much more evident. Diving this past year I noticed a big change in the amount of small fish Parrot fish in particular. The amount of algae which the parrot fish help to keep in control has been steadily taking over the reef year by year. The gillnets do not discriminate between parrot fish and other small fish, the nets take all fish. I used to see more of everything: lobsters, sea anemones, soft corals, Elkhorn coral, turtles, grouper. Most of the bigger fish have been fished out long ago.
This impact on the reef not only hurts the environment but the economic well being of the whole island. Tourism is a big part of the islands economy and diving is a big draw. St. Croix has a very diverse and special reef environment. None of the other islands have the choice of diving experiences that St. Croix offers. Now I do not only come to St. Croix for the diving. I come and spent three to four weeks a year not only diving but also enjoying the rich culture that St. Croix has to offer. I come for the people, the dining, the scenery, the beaches, the rain forest, the art and a host of other things. As the reef deteriorates year by year, I ask myself why do I want to come to St. Croix to dive any more besides all the other for mentioned things. I am not just a "diver" or a "continental enviros" as Mr. Olsen says. I am a supporter of the whole economy that makes up this wonderful island.
I applaud the work that Michelle has been doing in order to help the reef. She has been diving the reefs and running a business longer than most on St. Croix. If anyone knows what impact the island has undergone over the years she would be one of them. She has also had the courage to stand up against formidable obstacles in order to protect the reef. I realize that everyone needs to make a living and every body has their own agendas but there must be a middle ground that is beneficial for this wonderful island. The reef is losing this war and without a change in every bodies attitude toward it St. Croix as a whole will suffer.
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