Coral Reefs in the US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands are one of the few localities under the US flag with coral reefs. Coral reefs are valuable resources and are of tremendous economic value. They function in shoreline protection, support our fisheries and support our tourism-based economy.
Like many places worldwide, pressures on our reefs are growing year by year and we are noticing a decline in the integrity of our reefs. Both natural events and man's activities have resulted in the degradation of the reefs in the VI, and the fisheries they support. It has been reported that in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans about two-thirds of the reefs are at risk, about one-third are at high risk (Bryant, et al., 1998).
Sedimentation from upland deforestation, poor agricultural practices, coastal development, pollution and over fishing are major threats to our reefs and play key roles in the loss of near-shore reefs in the Virgin Islands.
Siltation and nutrient-loading from upland areas causes eutrophication of the marine environment, the most significant negative human-caused impact in Puerto Rican and Virgin Island waters. This eutrophication has long term, detrimental effects on reef coral and the plants, sponges, and animals that live there.
VIMAS is involved in several efforts to learn more about our reefs, the stresses they are experiencing, and the long-term effect these stressors have on the marine environment. VIMAS is using underwater photography and videography, the AGRRA protocol, and partnerships with other organizations to monitor and evaluate the health of the Virgin Islands' reefs.