Part 1 in The Nature Conservancy Series
by Kemit-Amon Lewis, Coral Conservation Manager
St. Croix! The food capital of the Caribbean is also home to the "fresh and local" movement. And, The Nature Conservancy and partners are working to insure that the seafood that we enjoy today will be as much a part of our culture tomorrow. I'd like to introduce you to the Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative.
The Reef Responsible Initiative was designed to help create a sustainable seafood industry in the US Virgin Islands. TNC and partner organizations developed outreach materials and have provided trainings to local restaurants on St. Croix. These restaurants received information on seasonal closures, size restrictions, and the "Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don't Eat" seafood list, which were all developed based on current fishery regulations and the best available science. Restaurants that have participated in Reef Responsible training are then invited to become members of the Reef Responsible Initiative, are branded as a Reef Responsible Participating Restaurant, and are celebrated for their commitment towards supporting and helping to improve our local fishery.
Not only important for our fishery, this initiative will also help to improve the health of our coral reefs. Reefs across the Caribbean have been impacted by a number of natural and man-made stressors. Climate change has been the biggest global issue over the last few decades. However, more local threats like run-off and the excessive harvest of herbivorous fishes (parrotfishes, doctorfish, etc.) have caused many Caribbean reefs to disappear and/or lose their function. Herbivorous fishes are similar to long-spined urchins in that they remove algae from reefs--providing space for corals to inhabit. Many of our reefs today are dominated by algae, not corals.
We can make a difference! We believe that we can improve our reefs ability to persist through climate change if we can reduce or eliminate local, man-made stressors to our reefs, while actively restoring them.
Coral reefs are an important, biodiverse, marine habitat that benefit people in more ways than one. Reefs defend our coastlines and they are a big part of the cultural heritage of many islanders. They are also the main reason many tourists visit our beautiful islands (next to our warm personalities, gorgeous smiles, and amazing food scene).
By making conscious decisions about the seafood that we catch, purchase, prepare, and serve we can all become "reefsponsible" and can, together, improve the health of our coral reefs and ensure that the seafood that we enjoy today may also be enjoyed for generations to come.
How can you help? Support our local commercial fishers, purchase seafood when in season or within the correct size restrictions, and support our Reef Responsible Participating Restaurants--Savant, Dashi, Café Christine, Twin City Coffee House, The Mermaid at Buccaneer, The Terrace at Buccaneer, balter, Baked Café, Above the Cliff, Empress Fresh Foods, The Galleon, Rhythms at Rainbow, Ital in Paradise, Galangal, La Reine Chicken Shack, Zion Modern Kitchen, Un Amore, J & V Diner, Kaza House, eat @ Cane Bay, BES Craft Cocktail Lounge, Waves at Cane Bay, Misfit Island Munchies, Mathayom/St. John Catering, Cast Iron Pot, and Ciboné.
The Reef Responsible Initiative was developed through a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy's US Virgin Islands Program and NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program with local partners (DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, UVI Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and
St. Croix Reef Jam).
For more information about the Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative, visit www.reefconnect.org or like us on facebook (www.facebook.com/reefsponsible). Restaurants interested in joining the initiative can contact Kemit-Amon Lewis at The Nature Conservancy (340) 718-5575 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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