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
sea turtles use our beaches by making nests
and laying eggs under the sand. Be careful
where you place umbrellas and other beach
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!
TOURS AT PARTICIPATING HOTELS!
One of the ways the “Leave
Paradise in its Place” program will be reaching out
is through guided snorkel trips once a week at four
St. Croix hotels:
Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort on Monday
The Buccaneer Hotel on Tuesday
Chenay Bay Beach Resort on Thursday
on the Beach on Friday
Travis will be leading the sessions, all
of which start at 10 am and include a 30
minute talk about the ecology of the different
habitats and the animals and organisms snorkelers
might encounter along the ways. These trips
are free of charge, and gear will be provided
(hotels can elect to use their own gear).
Eight participants can go on the trip at
one time, and children under the age of
15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Sea shells are
hideouts for octopus and other sea creatures.
Leave them as a shelter or haven for sea
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. There
are fun ways for us to all support this program:
There are several ways
you can help or get involved:
- Take advantage
of FREE Snorkeling trips!
- Pick up some postcards
while in the Virgin Islands, and share them with
- If you are a parent,
make sure you encourage your kids NOT to take that
shell or piece of coral off the beach, but instead
gently give it back to the environment by leaving
it where you found it.
- If you are a teacher
or educator yourself, you may want to take some
posters back to the mainland with you to share with
your students. The next time they go to the beach
(wherever that is) we hope they remember to...
"Leave Paradise in its
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.