STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES, LABOUR AND IMMIGRATION,
HONOURABLE VINCENT WHEATLEY
AT THE SITTING OF THE 5TH SITTING, 2ND SESSION, 4TH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY,
TUESDAY 25TH FEBRUARY, 2020 – PROTECTED AREAS
Mr. Speaker, I had the distinct pleasure to be escorted along the mangroves at Hans Creek, Beef Island earlier this week by a group of enthusiastic conservationists and lovers of the nature in the Virgin Islands. It was an incredible experience to know that the Virgin Islands has such a gem of a resource with the mangroves and ponds that are immediately adjacent to the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport.
Mr. Speaker this is a testament to the foresight of our people that we have protected and conserved valuable natural areas, such as Hans Creek, which I must add, is a Fisheries Protected Area.
Mr. Speaker, the Virgin Islands has uniquely placed the protection of natural areas as part of our development strategy. However, Mr. Speaker, the last declared National Park was Sandy Cay, which was protected in 2008 by the late Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE, our first Premier.
Mr. Speaker, Successive administrations have placed a high importance on the protection of the environment and have set aside lands to support biodiversity conservation and to enhance the tourism product. Our approach for protecting lands and waters is a comprehensive one, as we include both National Parks and Fisheries areas into the framework of protection: we aspire to ensure the sustainable use of our resources to meet our needs. This Government intends to build on the foundation laid by our predecessors and we intend to expand the network of protected areas to safeguard our livelihoods and those natural and cultural features which are uniquely ours while we build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Mr. Speaker, we intend to bring to this honourable house the areas which were previously approved by Cabinet for final endorsement. Areas previously approved on Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke under both the National Parks and Fisheries Acts will be formally declared.
Mr. Speaker we also intend to add new areas by finalising the declaration of Great Thatch island, Smuggler’s Cove and Belmont Estate, the mangroves at Hodge’s Creek and Bar Bay and Long Bay, Beef Island. These areas encompass Caribbean dry forests, mangroves and salt ponds, which stabilise our coastlines, provide for our food security by serving as hatcheries and nurseries for juvenile fish and filter runoff from our hillsides, while maintaining our crystalline waters.
Mr. Speaker to further protect our marine environment, we also intend to implement a number of no anchoring zones throughout the Virgin Islands. These areas, Mr. Speaker, also enhance the tourism product and serve as a reminder to the world that the Virgin Islands aspires to continue to protect our natural environment.
Mr. Speaker, the beauty of the Virgin Islands is comprised of its people and our natural environment. Its protection must be purposeful, intentional and deliberate, in order to serve our development strategy. The Government of the Virgin Islands intends to build on the legacy of protection and expand the network of protected areas, which are so important to our livelihoods and the defining natural beauty of the Virgin Islands.