Former president of the BVI's Financial Services Commission, Michael Riegels, recites the anecdote that the offshore finance industry commenced on an unknown date in the 1970s when a lawyer from a firm in New York telephoned him with a proposal to incorporate a company in the British Virgin Islands to take advantage of a double taxation relief treaty with the United States. Within the space of a few years, hundreds of such companies had been incorporated. This eventually came to the attention of the United States government, who unilaterally revoked the Treaty in 1981. In the mid-1980s, the government began offering offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands, and incorporation fees now generate an estimated 51.4% of Government revenues. According to official statistics 447,801 BVI companies were 'active' as of 30th June 2012. There are no recent official statistics on total numbers of incorporations including struck, liquidated and dissolved companies but these are estimated at approximately 950,000. Many of these companies were originally formed under the International Business Companies Act, 1984, but have now been consolidated into the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004. The British Virgin Islands also promotes a number of regulated financial services products. The most important of these is the formation and regulation of offshore investment funds.
Tourism in the British Virgin Islands
Tourism is the travel for recreational, leisure, family or business purposes, usually of a limited duration. Tourism is commonly associated with trans-national travel, but may also refer to travel to another location within the same country.
In the British Virgin Islands, Tourism is the main source of income for the general society. This also provides many jobs for members of the community. In 2006 a total of 825,603 people visited The British Virgin Islands of whom, 443,987 were cruise ship passengers, mainly from the United States. The bulk of the tourism income in the British Virgin Islands is generated by the yacht chartering industry. The Territory has relatively few large hotels compared to other tourism centres in the Caribbean.
Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the BVI are:
- Sage Mountain National Park in Tortola: A gift from the Rockefellers to the government of the BVI, Sage Mountain National Park cloaks a ridge running east to west along the spine of Tortola. Almost the entire park is 305 meters above sea level, and 523 meter Mount Sage is the highest peak in all the Virgin Islands.
- The Baths National Park in Virgin Gorda: The Virgin Gorda Baths are a busy anchorage and one of the British Virgin Islands’ most famous landmarks. This distinctive bay is scattered with giant granite boulders, creating sea pools and grottoes that are perfect for snorkelling and exploring.
- J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens in Tortola: Established in 1979 and a Total of 2.87 acres. The Botanic Gardens are a cool and peaceful refuge located in the centre of Road Town. The three-acre gardens include a lush array of indigenous and exotic tropical plants. A pergola walk, lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses, and miniature rain forests are just a few of the garden's attractions.
- Gorda Peak National Park in Virgin Gorda: Rich in biodiversity, Gorda Peak National Park comprises 107 hectares of semi-rainforest with dry forest cloaking its upper slopes. The park is home to some rare plants, including six species of native orchids. Wildlife such as reptiles, tree frogs, birds, bats, soldier crabs, and the world's smallest lizard, the Virgin Gorda gecko, are also found in the park.
- Cane Garden Bay Beach in Tortola: Shaped like a crescent, Cane Garden Bay Beach is Tortola's most popular stretch of sand. Backed by steep green hills, the bay waters are sheltered from winds inside the barrier reef. The beach is a busy anchorage with numerous opportunities for snorkelling and water sports.
- Smuggler's Cove Beach in Tortola: At the western-most end of Tortola lies Smuggler's Cove, a secluded, sheltered, and undeveloped patch of island that lures beach lovers seeking an escape from the busier resort scene.
- Rhone National Maritime Park & RMS Rhone Shipwreck: Rhone National Maritime Park is possibly the only national park in the world owing its existence to a shipwreck. A hurricane in 1867 caused the Rhone to crash against the rocks off the southwest coast of Salt Island, killing 124 people, while the surviving 23 washed up on Salt Island's shores. Today the wreck is one of the best diving sites in the Caribbean.
Agriculture in The British Virgin Islands
Livestock raising is the most important agricultural activity; poor soils limit the islands' ability to meet domestic food requirements.
A permit is required to import or export any plants, agricultural products or animals including pets. It is necessary to obtain a plant quarantine phytosanitary certificate for fruits and vegetables being removed from the territory. Animals must have import or export certificates and appropriate vaccination and veterinary health certificates.
The Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour hosts Farmer’s Week annually where the Territory’s farmers will showcase their produce, livestock, preserves and handicraft at this annual celebration. The proposed activities include door prizes at all exhibitions, live local entertainment by bands and dance groups, fashion shows, tours of the agricultural stations and games for both adults and children. Less than 0.6% are estimated to work in agriculture. Despite its tiny economic impact, unlike Financial Services, agriculture has its own dedicated Government minister.
Whether one is sailing across the azure blue waters, diving or snorkelling one of the many coral reefs, or sitting on the beach, the marine environment is one of the most popular attractions in the British Virgin Islands. This natural resource has many different types of habitats such as mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, sandy flats, trenches and sea mounts. Within these habitats live hundreds of different species of fish, invertebrates and plants, which make Recreational Fishing a joy. In the Virgin Islands recreational fishing may be divided into Pleasure, Fishing and Sport Fishing. A popular fishing area in the BVI is the North Drop, a shelf that descends 200 feet off the east side of Virgin Gorda. This drop is teeming with Marlin, Tuna and Swordfish.
While visiting the BVI and having any interest in fishing in the BVI, one should contact the Ministry of Natural Resources & Labour to obtain a fishing licence.
Types of Licences:
Under the Virgin Islands Fisheries Act 1997, all fishing activities occurring within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone have certain, specific restrictions. All fishing vessels must have valid Certificates of Registration and owners and vessels have valid fishing licenses. Guests on charter must have valid Fishing Licenses or Temporary Fishing Permits.
This licence is issued only to BVIslanders and Belongers. Under the law the majority of the catch is intended for sale to the BVI Fishing Complex but the remaining percentages may be exposed for sale elsewhere. The Licence is valid for one year with a vary cost depending on the vessel class and length. There is a standard application fee of $10.
Pleasure Fishing Licence
This license is suitable for family fishing. It is also applicable to day sailors and recreational charter boats, where guests wish to use hand lines. The licence comes with the option of a one month, three month or annual issuing. Catch is limited to 30lbs per vessel per day with conditions.
Sport Fishing Licence
This licence must be obtained for Big Game Sport Fishing vessels. Catch should be released and all catch must be recorded in a log book, which should be submitted to the Conservation and Fisheries Department. Licence is valid for one year and costs $200.
Temporary Fishing Permit
This permit is available for those visitors who intend to fish while in the B.V.I., whether on charter boats or otherwise. They are valid for 10 days after the date of issue, and cost $10.
*The removal of any marine organism from British Virgin Islands waters without a recreational fishing permit is illegal for non- BVIslanders.
It is ILLEGAL to catch the following during Closed Seasons:
1st January – 31st March Margate Fish (haemulon album)
1st January – 31st March Red Hind (epinephelus guttatus)
1st March – 31st May Nassau Grouper (epinephelus striatus)
1st April – 30th November Marine Turtles
31st July – 31st October Lobsters
15th August - 31st October Queen Conch (strombus gigas)
15th August - 31st October Whelk (cittarium pica)