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Saturday, December 10, 2022


Sept. 2, 2002 — The Virgin Islands will be doing its share of monitoring the health of the coral reefs of the world.
Brewers Bay on St. Thomas will be home to a new coral reef monitoring station, one of a series of stations being put in place in the Virgin Islands and in other island jurisdictions of the United States by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
There is already one in place at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. Data communication from that site is temporarily down, said NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program Web site, while personnel install a remote underwater WebCam which will allow for live images that can be viewed on the Web.
NOAA will install the first segment of the Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network for the Brewers Bay site during the second week in September.
CREWS technology incorporates artificial-intelligence software to analyze in situ measurements of the atmospheric and oceanic conditions at strategic coral reef locations. It will result in long-term data sets for environmental conditions, including wind speed, maximum wind gust, air temperature, barometric pressure, rainfall, tide level, ultraviolet radiation, and photosynthetically active radiation.
NOAA also plans to install a remote underwater video camera (WebCam) to monitor nearly coral reefs to verify bleaching predictions and monitor spawning and lobster migration at the Brewers site. Transferred via satellite, the data and video images can be viewed in near real-time on the World Wide Web and will be used for bleaching alerts, predictions, and data for researchers, among other things, according to a UVI release.
Dr. Richard Nemeth, director of UVI's Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, said the monitoring station will be a great tool for UVI researchers and students studying the marine environment. The station will be important to natural resource managers at the V.I. Planning and Natural Resources Department. Nemeth, who recommended the Brewer's Bay site to NOAA officials, said data collected can also be used in various research, education and outreach projects at UVI.
"It tells us what's going on in the marine environment in the Virgin Islands, and this information can be compared to data collected from other stations located around the world," Nemeth said. "This will provide many new opportunities for designing more sophisticated research projects and will significantly increase the Virgin Islands' role in coral reef research in the Caribbean."
Jim Hendee of the Coral Health and Monitoring Program at Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, NOAA's principal investigator in charge of the CREWS research installation, said that Brewer's Bay was chosen because of its proximity to UVI's MacLean Marine Science Center and the history of coral reef studies already done on the area.
In September, NOAA scientists will fasten a stainless steel plate to the bottom of the ocean floor at a 20-foot depth, which will anchor the monitoring station. It will be located 150 feet offshore from Black Point (see graphic). The balance of the station's equipment will be installed before the end of the year.
UVI will also provide support services for the monitoring station, Nemeth said in the release.
The first CREWS station was installed in 2001 near the Caribbean Marine Research Center in the Bahamas. The second station to be installed was the one on St. Croix in the National Park Service's Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, said a NOAA release, and Brewers Bay is the third. Another is planned within the Buck Island Reef National Monument. Other CREWS stations are planned for Puerto Rico, Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam.
The CREWS program follows the pattern of the SEAKEYS program at NOAA, partnering with Florida Institute of Oceanography to place coral reef monitoring stations within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and in Florida Bay.
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