April 24, 2008 — It can take eight to 10 years for fish stocks to recover once fishing is halted, according to Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park.
Boulon spoke Thursday at a meeting sponsored by Friends of V.I. National Park at the Westin Resort and Villas that featured recently released National Parks Conservation Association reports. They are the State of the Parks: V.I. National Park and Coral Reef National Monument, and America's Heritage for Sale, a report on the impact of inholdings within national parks across the country. One case study focuses on the national park on St. John.
About two dozen people attended the meeting.
Boulon, speaking about the state of the fishery in Coral Reef National Monument in the waters off St. John, managed by the park, said although the area received national monument status in 2001, it wasn't until 2004 that the park was able to enforce the no-fishing regulation.
He said he discussed the lack of fish in the monument with fishermen.
"One on one, fishermen understand that there's no fish anymore, but you put two fishermen in a room and they're against it," Boulon said, referring to the monument.
A study by the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department indicated that only 3.9 percent of the fish caught across the northern Virgin Islands came from the monument.
"That's not a lot," Boulon said.
He pointed out that most commercial fishermen fish far offshore because the inshore fish stocks are depleted.
Boulon suggested that the current push to return monument waters to the Virgin Islands may have been sparked by Planning's recent ban on gillnet fishing on St. Croix.
In discussing the recent acquisition of 200-plus acres of land at Maho Bay by the Trust for Public Land, the director of the National Parks Conservation Association's Sun Coast regional office in Hollywood, Fla., said the organization's job is to push the federal government to repay the Trust for the purchase.
John Adornato III said the association is asking for $100 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy inholdings within parks across the country so they are not developed.
"All we need to acquire inholdings is a check from the federal government," Adornato said.
He also spoke about funding for special projects that come under the Centennial Challenge program established to observe the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
Boulon said that the park is trying to increase its funding by $3 million over the next several years under the Centennial Challenge program.
He also noted that the park faces many challenges. They include development of inholdings and at the fringes of the park, impact by visitors and even the effect on the park's air quality when the dump catches fire on nearby Tortola.
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