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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Friday admonished the Senate leadership for what he termed their "encroachment on the authority of the executive branch" in discussing marine issues with British Virgin Islands officials, but majority senators insisted they were simply acting on issues which have been stalled for too long.
Turnbull said in a statement that "some who would seek to lure the once lucrative marine industry back to the USVI contributed to its relocation in the first instance." He described as a "sensitive matter" the licensing of boats to fish in BVI waters in light of new regulations mandated by fisheries conservation agreements.
The governor said the fishing license issue is on the agenda of the next meeting of the Inter-Virgin Islands Conference, the framework within which such negotiations have usually been conducted. "It is important that the territory have a common position on these often delicate matters, which are already the subject of 'quiet diplomacy' and dialogue between our respective governments," Turnbull said in the statement.
But majority senators have justified their impatience by noting that time is not on the side of the U.S. Virgin Islands economy. Sen. Norma Samuel, who along with Sens. Carlton Dowe and Donald "Ducks" Cole met Friday with BVI officials on the fishing license issue said the effort must continue. "There was no disrespect meant to the governor," she said, "but we are in a crisis. We will not sit by idly while this issue lingers."
Samuel said the majority's role in the game fishing license controversy is in response to the prodding of the industry, which for years has appealed to the government for movement.
"The boating industry came to us, and we took the bull by the horns and did what we had to do," she said. She apologized if the governor has interpreted "the strides we made this afternoon" as disrespect.
A spokesman for the V.I. Gamefishing Club, Harry Clinton, said that for some years now, the BVI government has issued only limited licenses which has complicated the planning process for the many popular—and lucrative—tournaments held here each year. "One of the hindrances is the lack of BVI fishing licenses available to visiting and local boats, and we must work towards a resolution of this problem," he said.
Clinton said despite the efforts of former Sen. George Goodwin and many years of prodding the government, nothing has happened until now. "When these issues came up this year, we had a forum with Sens. Samuel, Cole and Dowe, who all recognized this need and volunteered to take the lead on this," he said.
The once-flourishing marine industry in the USVI has all but fallen apart, going from a $100 million industry in the 1980s—and at one time projected to reach $200 million by 2000—to a fraction of that $100 million today.
The results of the meeting were most concrete, Samuel said Friday. "What used to be a partial license will be issued for a one-year period. We made great progress … everyone understood that we are not taking from the BVI, we are seeking their assistance to recover our marine industry."
As for the second marine-related issue with the BVI, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said she wants to find out more about the BVI's appeal to the charter yacht industry.
"My approach as regards the BVI is to look at what Tortola has been offering as incentives that boaters saw fit to go there rather than remaining at our ports," Hansen said.
Hansen believes now that the governor has publicly objected to the 24th Legislature's tactics, the yachting industry may lose faith in her efforts. "Their concern is that everything will be dropped because the senators may be afraid to move," she said. "When I take up an issue, I will drop it when I see it where I want it."
There was no indication Friday as to whether followup meetings with BVI government officials are planned.

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