KEEP THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
Residents and visitors
appreciate the Virgin Islands for a number of reasons,
but the gorgeous beaches and stunning underwater ecosystems
definitely rank at the top of our list of favorite things
about St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. That’s why
it’s important that we all keep our marine life healthy
and safe. The
Virgin Islands Network of Environmental
Educators (VINE) has
launched a new awareness campaign called “Leave Paradise
in its Place” to tackle the problems we face in protecting
our delicate ecosystems.
IT’S THE LAW!
All native plants and animals
of the USVI are protected under the Indigenous Species
Act. It is illegal to take, catch, possess, injure,
harass, or kill any native animal, or plant. All fish
(unless harvested for food), coral, shells, and other
marine life are protected. This means no one is allowed
to leave the territory with shells, corals or any other
marine life in their possession, or to mail them off-island.
WHY SHOULD WE
LEAVE PARADISE IN ITS PLACE?
coral that wash up on the shore today will
break down and help form the sandy white
beaches of tomorrow. Please, do not remove
anything other than trash from the beach.
AND SHELLS ARE NOT
Did you know that in
the past two years alone, more than 1 ton of sand, coral
and shells removed from St. Croix beaches have been
confiscated by customs agents at Henry E. Rohlsen International
airport from visitors wanting to bring a piece of paradise
home with them? Our famed white sand beaches are
beautiful places to relax and hang out, but they are
also living organisms that play an important part in
the balance of our ecosystem as a whole. Sandy beaches
are made of coral and shelled organisms whose remains
erode into sand particles. Shells also serve as homes
for hermit crabs and other sea creatures. By leaving
the treasures of the beach in their place, you will
be helping to keep our beaches beautiful so they can
be enjoyed for years to come.
BEACH IS WHERE LIFE BEGINS
turtles use our beaches by making nests and laying
eggs under the sand. Be careful where you place
umbrellas and other
Many animals use the
beaches for nesting and hatching. Green, leatherback
and hawksbill sea turtles come ashore throughout the
year to lay their nests, and the baby turtles then make
the harrowing journey from sand to sea upon hatching.
These turtles are all on the Endangered Species list,
though their numbers have started to climb in recent
years due to positive intervention and awareness. Please
be careful where you walk, drive or place your belongings
when hanging out at the beach!
and sand dollars are living animals. They
find food in shallow sea grass beds. Enjoy
them by observing them in their natural
The Virgin Islands is
well known for having some of the best snorkeling and
diving in the world, and we need to keep it that way!
When enjoying an underwater adventure, please respect
the corals and sea life– they are integral to the underwater
ecosystems and animals that use reefs for shelter and
food. Because they are so delicate, reef organisms are
affected by the slightest touch by a hand or snorkel
fin. Please look but don’t touch when exploring underwater.
If you’re operating a
boat, please be careful where you toss your anchor!
You can protect our vital reefs by making sure you anchor
in the sand only. Grab an underwater camera and take
a few snaps of your snorkeling trip, but leave everything
where it is so that other travelers and residents can
enjoy the beauty of the reef!
SPREAD THE WORD WHERE YOU LIVE TOO!
The V.I. Network of Environmental
Educators (VINE) is putting a lot of effort into
making the “Leave Paradise in it’s Place” initiative
a fun, educational group effort, and it’s our responsibility
as residents and lovers of the Virgin Islands to
do our part as well. Hotels should be putting up
educational information and as residents we should
be sure to share our knowledge and respect for the
environment with visitors and friends as well.
With the power
of our community, we can come together to protect our
most precious natural resources and the delicate ecosystems
of our island home. Won’t you join us? Please contact
Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators
(VINE) for more information.
Sea shells are
hideouts for octopus and other sea creatures.
Leave them as a shelter or haven for sea