Coral Reefs in USVI

urchinkiller15

New member
I was shocked when I saw this. When I was little (about 8 yrs old) I visited St. John in the US Virgin Islands and went snorkling. I was amazed at the coral and all the beautiful fish. Sadly, a couple years ago I went back to the same place and found absolutly nothing. No coral, only sand. No beautiful fish, only little silver fish. This mad me very upset. This christmas I will be returning to St. John and am interested to see what it is like then. I'm afraid that the increase in tourism has greatly affected the reefs in the Carribbean.
 

greenbean36191

Premium Member
This is the case in most places in the Caribbean. Some places like Jamaica's Discovery Bay, which was the birthplace of reef ecology have seen greater than 80% declines in coral cover in the past 30 years.
 

h20 freak1

New member
Wow, is it really that much worse? I went there 2-3 years ago originally on a cruise and loved the snorkeling on trunk bay so much I went back to St. John to see more, but I can see what you mean, It did seem a little...off.
 

greenbean36191

Premium Member
Yep, it's that bad. Earlier this month the results of the US' reef monitoring program were released and they found that there had been something like a 50% decline in the USVIs with some reefs having 90% losses since 2005. The thing is that we know things were already in decline long before we started measuring. We don't know what a healthy reef looks like to measure against though, so we can't really tell if we stared measuring when the reef was already 10% gone or 50%.

I've got a buddy that does population modeling of anemones down there too and he shared some of his preliminary results with me. Basically, if trends continue, his animals are doomed.
 

2004jeepoutlander

New member
i think walt smith would get some great publicity if he started a program.. that includes wholse sa;ers all hte way down to the stores .......it would be cool if stores and wholesalers could send colectors corals to repopulate these reefs that had been overfished...
 

sfsuphysics

New member
Define huge.

My trips to Maui and seeing the range of reefs (granted just from a snorkling stand point not diving) went from stunning, to pathetic. This is not from the aquarium industry regardless of what companies like "Snorkel Bob" are trying to say, a combo of tourists (who don't understand corals and use them like rocks to touch/walk on) and population "run off" (sewage, agriculture, etc) most likely are larger factors than the marine ornamental industry.

Not exactly sure on this, but the US Virgin Islands are off limits to the aquarium trade (I could be wrong.. but I thought it was considered under national park status).

Hurricanes probably also have a bit to do with coral reefs getting absolutely destroyed too. So it might have been that between your 8 year visit as well.
 

onebadman

In Memoriam
The Caribbean has been closed to coral collection for about 30 yrs now.The decline of the reefs there is most definitely not the blame of the hobby.
 

greenbean36191

Premium Member
Nope, the decline in the Caribbean is from massive disease outbreaks, major bleaching events, eutrophication, and overfishing (mostly for food). Hurricanes have hit a few notable places very hard, but their impacts are limited and not really to blame for most of the damage.
 

2004jeepoutlander

New member
this is my opinion but the caribeans reefs have been effected by runoff, sewage, chemicals,..... but over fishing..because all the species tie together, tangs,snails,crabs clean the reef of algae.... everything plays a role...
 

drawman

New member
I didn't go last year but I have been going to the USVI for 10+ years now. It has definitely taken a big hit. At the place I stay at on St. Thomas they were dumping sewage right into the bay of one of the nicer reefs. They stopped but the damage is done. St. John's is relatively preserved compared to the other islands. It's sad when you see boats full of people who are uninformed about stepping on the coral everywhere.
 

gavinthefish

In Memoriam
The other problem with the caribean is that most of the people are poor and could care less about the reefs. They get fish and some food from them but if its between sitting in your own sewage or sending it out to sea what do you think their going to do.
 

tcgreaux

New member
i have lived in st.thomas untill i was 18, and being from fishermen decent and always on the water, they above reason for the reefs dieing is a small part of it. the vi has been hit by two major storm in the past two decades hurracine hugo, and marilin, not to mention the multiple smaller one ever couple years,is one major resons, the ocean temperatures are on the rise, i belive there 87 88*F is what i recorded at the begining of july when i was visiting my fam. there been a lot of haze from the african deserts that get blown over they atlantic in the last 15 years, the island monsterat volcano have been erupting every so often since the late 90s that soot get blown our way. those are some of the main resons that america paradise's reefs are dieing.
 

greenbean36191

Premium Member
Large, periodic disturbances like hurricanes are a common feature on reefs. Healthy reefs recover from them fairly quickly. Hugo and Marilyn were 19 and 13 years ago respectively. On a healthy reef you would expect to see major, if not close to full recovery even from such major hurricanes by now. The reefs of the USVIs have shown very little and in fact have been declining further over that time (50% since 2005). The hurricanes sped things up, but they aren't the root cause of the problem.

While dust from Africa and material from Monserrat are contributing factors, they're minor players, especially as compared to local inputs. The impacts of Monserrat are rarely even mentioned in the scientific literature. The dust from Africa affects gorgonians almost exclusively and they aren't the dominant species in most zones on a healthy reef (though they've become dominant throughout much of the Caribbean).
 

tcgreaux

New member
i understand were your coming from, but i dont think that torism is afecting a the majority of reef 40- 90 feet down last time i went fishing south of sabi key on the south side of st. thomas, most of the reef i remember growing up , are all bleach white this was a reef that 45' down and you coud see yelows blues greens cristal clear, now its all gone.

but i doo think anchors are a big factor of tearing up a reef.
 

billsreef

Moderator, 10 & Over Club
Premium Member
I was diving the reefs off St. Martin and Saba all of 2 weeks after Hugo passed directly over Saba. Very little storm damage was evident showing that the reefs can indeed handle such things in stride. I've been diving throughout the Caribean since the mid 1980's and seen many changes, all right in line with what greanbean describes as the problems.
 

zeusfc

New member
trust me it's tourism!

I went to st Lucia a few years back, we had a torrential storm and the run-off was unbelievable; where they had cleared huge swathes of mangrove, to fit the hotel in, the sea turned muddy brown! where the mangroves had been left, the sea remained crystal clear! yes reefs can recover from hurricanes, but there's a huge difference between storm damage, and a thick layer of mud!

couple that with the ever-enthusiastic tourists standing on the corals near the shore, to adjust their rental masks and flippers, and it's easy to see why the shallows get wrecked. this then puts greater environmental pressure on the reefs further away from the shore, until that suffers too.
 
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