June 1, 2004 – The territory and the British Virgin Islands have entered into an agreement to establish an Inter Virgin Islands Council, Government House announced on Tuesday.
The agreement was entered into on Saturday during the annual B.V.I./U.S.V.I. Friendship Day activities on Tortola, a release stated.
Among the areas to be addressed by the council, it said, is "sustainable use of the sea."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, in an address during the formal ceremonies, said that "a joint approach was necessary to ensure that the marine industry could continue to use the shared waters in a responsible way," the release said. Also attributed to the governor were comments that "available technology might be introduced to ensure the swift entry in and out of the waters of the respective territories."
"An attractive business environment for the marine industry is in the interest of both of our territories," Turnbull said.
Fishing by V.I. and U.S. anglers in what the B.V.I. claims as its territorial waters has been a subject of controversy between the two territories for many years, but especially in the last two.
In the fall of 2002, St. Thomas commercial fishermen Rick and Jason Berry were arrested on Tortola as they prepared to unload their day's catch for sale. Last October, the brothers entered guilty pleas to fishing without a valid license and boat registration. They were ordered to pay a total of $11,000 in fines and to forfeit their fishing boat, valued at $25,000.
The severity of the penalties prompted several V.I. officials, notably Sen. Lorraine Berry, who is not related to the brothers, to ask B.V.I. authorities for leniency. (See "Sen. Berry Asks B.V.I. for Leniency to Fishermen".)
According to Tuesday's Government House release, the new council also will address joint tourism promotion, livestock and produce trade, information technology and cultural preservation.
"The council provides us with a forum for consultation on these and other issues which might arise and establishes the proper environment to undertake joint initiatives," Turnbull said. Standing committees from both territories will be created to pursue specific areas of collaboration involving both governments and the private sector, he said.
An Inter Virgin Islands Conference was in place from 1990 through 1994. Turnbull said the newly announced successor council is the result of groundwork laid by Calvin Wheatley of St. Thomas and Norwell Harrigan of Tortola, both now deceased. Carlyle Corbin, the governor's representative for external affairs, who also served as secretary general of the conference, did follow-up work on the establishment of the new council, according to the release.
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