SCTLD is a lethal coral disease that has the potential to kill half of the stony coral species in the British Virgin Islands. Since its discovery in BVI last year, the NPT has been leading the charge in treating the disease as part of a ‘Strike Team’ established by Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration (MNRLI), the Hon. Vincent Wheatley to tackle what he termed “a coral crisis.”
Honourable Wheatley said, “Mitigating the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is of utmost importance, if we do not safeguard our reefs then we will indeed have a coral crisis. If we do not use every resource at our disposal to prevent this disease from spreading in our waters then we will lose one of our most important ecosystems and tourist attractions, which will be detrimental to our livelihoods and our way of life. We must do our part to ensure prosperity not only for ourselves, but for our people for generations to come.”
The team’s aim is to prevent the disease from spreading, and to mitigate its effects on the Territory’s valuable coral reefs. This collaboration will enable local dive operators to monitor and treat the disease and also provide awareness education to the community as a whole. This approach will greatly increase BVI’s capacity to tackle the disease in our waters, as once treatment has been applied, the disease’s impact is mitigated.
The programme feeds into the National Parks Trust’s overarching plan to gather more data on infected reefs in the Territory as well as wider regional transmission patterns.
National Parks Trust Director Dr. Cassander Titley-O’Neal said, “Coral reefs provide the Territory with various ecological services on which we depend on e.g., diving, snorkelling, beaches, coastal protection, safe waters, and seafood. The value of the Territory’s 267 km2 of coral reefs was evaluated at USD$194,691,000.00 in 2016 by an international body.
The funds granted by the Governor’s Office will allow NPT and the Strike Team to do our part in conserving and protecting the BVI’s marine environment for locals and tourist alike.”
The Governor’s Office is supporting the effort by providing a $75,000 grant to the National Parks Trust.
His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert said, “I am very pleased to support this important initiative with UK funds. A cross-community approach is the only way to stop this disease from having disastrous effects on our coral and the industries that depend on it. I was also pleased to see the UK Government commit new funds to support the Overseas Territories biodiversity in the most recent UK budget.
I hope through collaboration and determination, we can make a difference.” BVI’s coral reefs are home to a wide variety of marine life and play an essential role in protecting against erosion and natural disasters. They also hold significant economic value and provide jobs and income for the tourism and fisheries industries.
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