Members of the UVI community who have personal knowledge of the various human uses of marine and coastal areas in the St. Thomas East End Marine Reserves (STEER) area are being sought for possible participation in workshops designed to help complete a coastal use mapping project.
The STEER Coastal Use Mapping Project is a partnership of the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the STEER Advisory Committee, and three projects directed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - the Coral Reef Conservation Program, the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
UVI second-year Marine and Environmental Science graduate student Elena Kobrinski, who is serving as the local coordinator for the workshops, said the effort is to find individuals such as boaters, divers and snorkelers who personally use the STEER area. She said UVI researchers and others have been closely involved in a number of studies in the area. STEER covers about 3.7 square miles (9.6 square kilometers), and combines three areas that were designated as marine reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in 1994 - including Cas Cay, the Mangrove Lagoon and St. James and Compas Point Salt Ponds. The area contains extensive mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reef communities.
It houses a variety of commercial activities and is adjacent to
a landfill, marinas, an EPA Superfund Site and residential areas
served by individual septic systems.
At the day-long workshops, planned for May 22 and 23, invited participants will work to create digital maps of ocean uses like boating, mooring, kayaking, snorkeling and diving for the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER). The maps, GIS data layers and a report to be produced by the project will contribute to the understanding of the interaction between humans and the environment, an important factor when addressing issues such as pollution, coastal development and resource management.
The maps are also expected to highlight marine areas highly valued by local communities. NOAA will return in the summer of 2012 to report back to workshop participants and the local community regarding the outcome of the study.