Above: the BVI
By the Caribbean Journal staff
A team of scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom is in the British Virgin Islands to perform research on coral reefs and coastal communities.
The purpose of the visit, which has been authorized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, is to determine how climate change impacts the reefs.
The team will be in the British Virgin Islands for three months, aiming to explore “how people use the sea and the reefs; what changes people have noticed over time; how well people think the coral reefs are being managed; and how important the reefs are to the people of the BVI,” according to a government statement.
“We know that each year coral reefs contribute billions of dollars to Caribbean economies from tourism, fisheries and the provision of coastal defence from storms,” said Ronald Smith-Berkeley, permanent secretary in the Ministry. “Coral reefs generate the golden sandy beaches tourists love; they protect the shoreline against erosion and act as a home to lobster, conch and our favourite fish. For many, reefs represent an important source of income and/or a vital food supply.”
Coral reefs have been on the decline in the Caribbean for more than three decades, “leaving us with a decidedly degraded environment,” said Sarah Young, a marine social scientist at Newcastle.
The team will soon begin conducting interviews with fishermen, tourism operators and residents, with information collected to be presented at workshops and shared with government decision-makers.