SUSTAINABLE CRUISING & YACHTING
According to the World Atlas of Coral Reefs, the BVI has the highest concentration of charter yachts in the world
(Spalding, et al., 2001). There has been a 150% increase in bareboats and over a 300% increase in crewed yachts since the 1980’s. This doesn’t include the increase in foreign registered yachts that overnight in the BVI, many of which are considered ‘mega-yachts’ that reach lengths well over 24 metres (79 ft).
With an increase in the number of yachts in the Territory comes the potential of increased impacts on marine and coastal environments. Impacts such as anchor damage and groundings on fragile coral reefs are already issues we are facing (see article below). There are also issues with water quality and increased waste but these are only a few of a long list of issues that can come with increased numbers of boats.
So it all starts with educating the public about these issues...
The Marine Spatial Planning Initiative
for the North Sound & Sister Islands
ARK also aims to provide science-based research to support responsible decisions as well as promote community participation.
“Marine spatial planning” (MSP) is a concept in which strategies are developed to identify and resolve complex issues found within a defined marine eco-system. One of the key principles of MSP is that the plans are not created solely by upper-level policy makers but instead are created by the community for the community in which issues need to be resolved.
Who better to identify what the issues are and come up with solutions than those that are directly affected by the issues in the first place?
This project was initiated by a grant received from the Governor’s Office under the Jubilee Fund. While this project was originally intended to develop a marine spatial plan, information collected from numerous stakeholder meetings and literature review has identified too many data gaps that need to be resolved prior to creating this "Plan".
An action plan is currently being created to help guide priorities for what information is needed, how it will be obtained and how it will be funded.
While ARK may not resolve every issue, we can start to raise the questions, work with the community and make a change.
ANCHOR DAMAGE TO CORAL REEFS
IN THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
(Contributed by: Dr. Graham Forrester & Rebecca Flynn)
There is nothing new in saying that anchors can damage coral reefs, however recent research done here in the BVI shows that anchoring contributes greatly to the decline of coral reefs in this country. Surprisingly, these substantial effects of anchor damage have occurred despite the extensive network of moorings in the BVI.
Anchors and their associated chains can dislodge, scar, overturn, and break corals, as these pictures clearly show. The impact of anchoring extends beyond these immediate symptoms of damage to influence the entire reef ecosystem.
Our first analysis, based on a survey of 21 BVI reefs in 2014, showed that the cumulative effect of regular anchoring is a substantial loss of corals and sea fans that are damaged directly. When the corals and sea fans disappear, the reef becomes flatter and so supports fewer fish because they depend on the reef structure for shelter. In numerical terms, where there is little anchoring, coral covers 17% of the bottom habitat, which is similar to the Caribbean-wide average. Where anchoring is frequent, however, coral only covers 10% of the reef. Fish abundance is roughly halved on reefs with frequent anchoring compared to reefs where anchoring is rare.
Our second analysis showed that larger vessels can cause substantial damage in just one day, and that this damage is a major contributor to long-term change. At one site that we have monitored annually since 1992, a one-time anchoring event in 2004 by a 50 m vessel caused coral loss that accounts for roughly half of the cumulative decline from all causes from 1992-present. This one-time event also caused a roughly 25% drop in fish abundance. One encouraging sign is that there was no evidence that the steady decline of coral abundance from other causes was accelerated by the anchoring event, so management plans that reduce anchor damage should have a positive effect.
Unlike environmental damage caused by regional and global activities that are beyond local control, anchor damage is something that can be addressed through local management. This problem can be addressed successfully by local action!
All text and images in this article are copyright of Graham Forrester and Rebecca Flynn. Please do not reproduce this article, or parts of it, without permission (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Photos: Overturned and scarred corals after a 50 m vessel anchored overnight on a long-term monitoring site near Guana Island, BVI. Photos taken in late July