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Flat Out Fishing – When is a Preserve NOT a Preserve?

I hope that this column will
motivate everyone to think about this issue and help provide some positive
answers, suggestions, and proposals on how we can solve this problem.  While this material focuses on
St. Thomas, it is
relevant to every marine preserve and protected area regardless of location.

On the east end of St. Thomas
we have a collection of 4 different marine reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.
Of relevance for this discussion are the Cas Cay and
St. James reserves. I don’t think that anyone will argue the importance
of preserving the limited shallow water and mangrove habitat that exists on
St. Thomas and most other Caribbean
islands.

With that said, I am at a
loss to explain how areas that are clearly set aside as reserve, are being used
in the exactly the same way as any other location on the island, and these uses
are clearly not in the best interest of these “reserves”. Here are
some examples:

Moorings

How is it possible that
there is a constant change in the number and location of boats moored in the Cas Cay and St. James reserve areas? This isn’t meant
as a criticism of anyone mooring in these areas, it’s just a statement of
fact. Logically an area that is set aside as a “reserve” by its
very definition is intended to preserve and protect the area for the benefit of
everyone. It follows that everyone would want to maintain (i.e.
“preserve”) these areas in as natural a state as possible. A quick
tour of the area unfortunately shows that exactly the opposite is
happening.There is a growing
number and variety of boats moored in every nook and cranny of the reserve
areas.While these boats may indeed
be legally moored, that fact alone is one of the problems that need to be
addressed.This is a thorny issue,
and I certainly don’t have any definitive answer, but I do know that if
we have any hope of restoring these areas, we have to work together to come up
with mooring regulations for these areas that make sense for everyone.

Derelict Docks, Sunken Boats, and Other Goodies

Everyone knows the extent of
this problem, and its time as a community to roll up our sleeves and get
involved.We have precious little
mangrove shoreline habitat, and a large percentage of it is littered with all
manner of detritus.This really hit
home when my son Scott who is 9, was carefully studying the shoreline in the
Compass Point area as we were heading west in the boat. He asked a perfectly
logical question, “Why are all those boats sitting on the bottom or stuck
in the ‘bushes’?” 
I thought about it for a minute, and honestly couldn’t give him an
answer that would have made any sense to his legitimate question. He was 100%
right!They shouldn’t be
there, and we don’t have anyone to blame but our own complacency.

Anyone that knows me will
tell you that “for me” there are few things in life better than
being on the water casting to tailing bonefish or rising tarpon with a fly rod.
If we don’t do something now to improve the condition of our marine
reserves and other inshore areas, we will loose them. It would be a crime to
deprive our children of experiences that we have taken for granted. If you would like to help form a task
force to clean up the mess we’ve all created, please contact me via
email, or contact Chris Kennan publisher of All
At Sea.
I look forward to hearing from you, and here’s hoping you
have a great fall fishing season.

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