Does the DPNR apply its own rules in VI waters? | Opinion

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Anyone who has taken a ferry, been to a beach, or taken a boat ride can tell you that there has been an exponential increase in activity on our waters and in our bays. Unfortunately, alongside this increased activity, there has been an increase in violations of rules and regulations regarding the anchoring and navigation of boats and personal watercraft and often a complete disregard for common courtesy. Meanwhile, the department responsible for ensuring compliance with the laws governing our marine environment, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has been invisible, even refusing to acknowledge Hot Line reports or direct complaints. .

Instead, it seems they are focusing on incentivizing more boat traffic by adding new moorings when they are not able to enforce the level of activity now.

The main responsibility of DPNR as stated on their website:

“The DPNR will continue to ensure the effective delivery of services in accordance with the mandates of the Department: to protect, maintain and manage the natural and cultural resources of the Virgin Islands, through the coordination of economic development, in collaboration with local, federal and non-federal authorities. – government organizations, enabling present and future generations of the Virgin Islands to live a safer and more complete life in harmony with their environment and their cultural heritage.

Over Thanksgiving weekend in Round Bay, a designated restricted area in eastern St. John’s, here’s what residents, including this one, observed:

• More than 20 large boats, mostly from outside the territory, anchored within 50 feet of shore, stern lines in swimming areas, rafts and music until the wee hours of the morning while lighting up the waters of turtle habitat with their lights.

• Day charter boats anchoring within 10 to 50 feet of shore.

• Jet skiers of at least three yachts, motorized surfboards, water skiers, tuber-pulling boats, all operating illegally in a restricted area, in turtle habitats, between boats, nearby swimmers and snorkelers in territorial and federal waters.

• The 452-foot yacht, Rising Sun, anchored with its massive anchor chain, for days in waters known for their coral reefs.

Additionally, tourists and pristine islanders have reported strong odors of diesel fuel in the water that covered their swimsuits, bodies and snorkel gear as well as illegal anchoring in live corals.

These events occurred at Round Bay / Hansen Bay, none of which is listed as an overnight anchorage according to the Governor’s Order in Council. Any overnight anchoring conflicts with the order. Rafting the boats would lead to even more fines. With the volume of activity, the DPNR probably could have imposed and collected enough fines to purchase a brand new patroller, staff it and enforce regulations. We cannot put a price on the damage to coral reefs and the ecosystem.

The DPNR received numerous reports of illegal activity both before the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the weekend from numerous eyewitnesses, but never responded.

The marine ecosystem of Round Bay, one of St. John’s living bays, is under attack and the government leaders we entrust to protect and preserve are nowhere to be found. Hiding your head in the sand and refusing to deal with complaints and enforce regulations is unacceptable. Hello!? Is there anyone there?


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