The governor’s Marine Economic Development Council discussed ongoing efforts to create public-private partnerships to keep mooring spots available to the public.
The group held its quarterly meeting Monday at Government House in Frederiksted.
Representatives from the various agencies and interest groups involved in the marine industry comprise the council, coming together to share information about their efforts, according to coordinator John Holmberg.
The council addresses issues and concerns of the industry, provides a voice to the government for maritime industries, and works to build the industry’s contribution to the local economy by addressing industry concerns, initiating programs and building grass-root support through educational outreach.
The meeting, chaired by Gov. John P. de Jongh Jr., heard from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife about efforts to replace the moorings.
Holmberg said Fish and Wildlife is creating the partnerships with dive groups and others to replace and maintain 40 recreational moorings throughout the territory. He called them "transient moorings," where short-term visitors could tie up without throwing out an anchor that could damage the sea bottom.
"These are moorings that had been installed by different groups over the years and fallen into disrepair," Holmberg said. "They’re trying to replace ones in critical areas … primarily Christmas Cove (St. Thomas) and some sites in St. Croix."
The council also heard about Fish and Wildlife’s plans to install two fish aggregator devices (FADs) in each district. These are submerged structures that provide a place for smaller sea creatures to congregate, attracting larger fish that then attract the bigger fish.
FADs can then become the focal point for fish, and consequently for fishermen, who instead of happening on fish will have a central fishing area.
Holmberg said the council is developing a Web page for maritime news and discussion.
The council also heard about efforts to lobby the U.S. Congress for a waiver to the so-called six-pack rules that limit the U.S.V.I. charter boat industry.
Under the six-pack rules, charter boats that carry more than six passengers are subject to stringent Coast Guard inspections. The passage of those rules more than 20 years ago devastated the territory’s charter industry, Holmberg said, as all the larger boats raised anchor and moved their operations to the British Virgin Islands.
According to Holmberg, the U.S.V.I. charter boat industry fell from $80 million a year to about $25 million.