VIPCA Testimony: Marine Biology to be taught from year 9 in USVI high schools.

VIPCA TESTIMONY: In favour of new proposed legislation for Marine Biology to be taught in high school to all students from year 9, to be heard in St Croix Chambers hearing of Bill 32-0006 on June 14th 2017.

Amendment: SECTION 1. Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 41, subsection (c) “(8) Marine Biology for grade 9…”

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, my name is Oriel Blake and I am the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, known as VIPCA. VIPCA is the U.S. Virgin Islands’ only non-profit marine charter association. VIPCA’s goals include encouraging Virgin Islands youth into the marine industry for employment as well as promoting marine conservation. Educating school children in marine biology from year nine to improve their understanding of the marine environment is paramount to both of these causes. VIPCA supports the amendment proposed to Bill 32-0006.

The youth of today need to understand the marine environment that helps support life on this planet, and more specifically the Virgin islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands coral reefs are in decline: Elkhorn and Staghorn coral in the Territory is listed as threatened, and is protected federally under the United States Endangered Species Act as well through local law. Natural stressors such as hurricanes cannot be avoided, however man-made stressors like polution can be. For example the sunsceens used by thousands of cruise ship passengers cause reef bleaching; if responsibilty was taken then the negative impact of humans on Virgin Islands coral reefs could even be reversed.

Marine Biology can educate school children about local species and habitats, and how to stop polluting factors which harm them. Climate change, coral reef bleaching, invasive species, endagered species and overfishing all are of great concern to the future of the islands. Promoting conservation and encouraging change in the way we treat the environment is important to maintaining the ecosystems that protect the U.S. Virgin Islands coastlines. By educating students from year 9 and up in marine biology, the youth of tomorrow will learn to teach their children how treat the marine environment with respect. Career oportunites in the marine industry will open for these students, from employment promoting and protecting the marine life such as in the National Parks or Coral World, to working in the marine charter industry as captains or crew. Through consistent conservation of the Caribbean sea surrounding the Virgin Islands, not only will the marine environment be healthier, but tourism greater and the economy that depends upon our beaches stronger.