Let's remember that the gill net ban is a law that was voted on and approved by the VI lawmakers. This law also came from a recommendation from the federal government with documented evidence of the destruction that these nets cause. At one time, the advisory board was 100% in favor of the gill net ban.
Dr. Olsen was also choosing to ignore the Federal laws regarding the Endangered Species Act, which states that no one can participate in any activity that could harm or kill an endangered species. Gill nets have been the cause of dozens of endangered turtle deaths. There is also a federal law regarding an "accidental take permit" that is being ignored by Dr. Olsen. This is a federal permit anyone who could come in contact with an endangered species (like sea turtles), is required to have.
The fish that is being caught in these gill nets are not the same fish that are being served to tourists in restaurants. Tourists prefer wahoo, tuna, and dolphin (Mahi-Mahi). Reef fish that are being caught in gill nets can have levels of Ciguatera that can make a tourist sick. There was not one particular group that is responsible for this action. Restaurants on the water, and hotel owners also spoke out about gill nets being set in swimming / snorkeling areas. The US Coast Guard spoke about safety issues regarding gill nets and recreational activities in the same areas. This goes a lot further than just dive operators and environmentalists. Dr. Olsen lives on St. Thomas, where there are no gill nets. He might have changed his opinion if there were gill nets set off the beach at the Ritz Carlton hotel or Marriot Frenchmans Reef hotel.
This governor ran on a promise to get cruise ships and tourism back to St. Croix. All the evidence of what needs to be done to make this happen points to a better management of fisheries. If cruise ship passengers have nothing to look at underwater, St. Croix is going to have a hard time competing against Dominica and St. Lucia. Both of these islands have protected areas restricted from fishing for snorkeling, diving, and swimming which are a big draw for cruise ships.
This is a progressive move for everyone on St. Croix that cares about the future of our fisheries, and the start of a new tourist destination.
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