STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES,
LABOUR AND IMMIGRATION,
HONOURABLE VINCENT WHEATLEY
ON WORLD OCEANS DAY – INNOVATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE OCEAN
8 JUNE 2020
The Virgin Islands consists of some 60 islands, cays and rocks that amount to an average land mass/area of 153 square kilometers. By contrast, the Virgin Islands has the rights and responsibilities to approximately over 84,000 square kilometers of ocean space. This amounts to approximately 550 times more ocean real estate than that of the land.
This year we celebrate World Oceans Day under the theme of “Our Oceans and Seas Connects and Sustains US”. Having a healthy and sustainable ocean in the Virgin Islands is of utmost importance to the economic and social growth of these islands.
Our marine tourism already derives significant benefits to the Virgin Islands. Other key sectors including fisheries equally highlight the importance of ocean-based economic sectors that are expected to grow. Therefore, we must ensure the proper and sustainable management of our oceans. In doing so, we consider emergent threats, such as the increasing prevalence of Stony Coral Tissue Loss, which poses a threat to the health and integrity of our reefs. This disease is responsible for the rapid deterioration of the reef structure and hence, research must be followed by action to combat the loss of our coral reefs to ensure that the engine fueling tourism and fisheries can be maintained for many years to come.
World Oceans Day serves as an important reminder that innovation is critically important to ensure sustainable oceans. Government has embarked in planning for the enhancement of the Blue Economy which will strategically set out a new direction for modern marine management in the Virgin Islands. The plan will establish Government’s priority areas of focus to diversify our economy while making use of our entire marine space.
I urge our community, including our students, the marine sectors such as fisheries, yachting, tourism stakeholders, ports and marine transportation interests, environmental and non-governmental organizations to forge new partnerships to promote and preserve our oceans as they sustain us and are critical to our livelihoods and survival. Considering all that is happening around us, there is no time better than now to ensure we take care of our oceans.