St. Croix, VI, was the venue for a partners meeting in late June with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM, SE & Caribbean Team) and NOAA’s Southeast and Caribbean Regional Collaboration Team (SECART). This was the first time either group had met in the USVI and provided a long overdue opportunity to meet with and learn from NOAA’s partners in the US Caribbean. The OCM and SECART group included staff from across NOAA’s primary organizational units (NMFS, NOS, NWS, OAR) and partners from National Estuarine Research Reserves, Coastal Management Programs, coral reef managers, Sea Grant, and the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).
Guests included local NOAA staff (NOAA VI Coral Liaison; NOAA VI Fisheries Liaison), VI DPNR (Fish and Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Divisions), PR DNER (CZM Program and Jobos Bay NERR), FEMA; US Park Service; the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CariCOOS); staff engaged in NOAA/NCCOS research and mapping activities; The Nature Conservancy; and USFWS/Sandy Point National WIldlife Refuge.
Attendees participated in science, policy, and resilience briefings and discussions, including first-hand updates on past and current activities and future needs. A full day discussion on resilience was a highlight of the meeting. Participants noted lessons learned following recent storms and engaged in discussions on moving toward a more resilient future. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives shared information on their programs and funding, along with information regarding opportunities and challenges for using these funds to enhance natural infrastructure. NOAA staff discussed the roles and responsibilities of their offices – before, during, and after disasters, highlighting products and services available to the community.
Field trips provided opportunities to learn more about local programs and issues. A glass-bottom boat ride, organized by the Virgin Islands’ Coastal Zone Management Division, featured vivid closeups of area issues, such as erosion, development pressures, storm-related damage, and damage to coral reefs from storms and human activities. Trips to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge and the East End Marine Park highlighted partnerships in St. Croix to enhance sustainable use of the island’s natural resources.
NOAA thanks the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources for all their assistance with meeting logistics and helping us better understand their programs and issues.
Please contact Geno.Olmi@noaa.gov for more information.