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Hundreds Come Out for Party with an Environmental Backdrop

May 25, 2008 — Sunday's Reefjam had Rainbow Beach on the west end of St. Croix jammed with people, who got the opportunity to learn about the fragility of undersea ecosystems and enjoy a party.
Emily Tyner of the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies at the University of the Virgin Islands, one of the organizers of the event, said she was surprised and appreciative of the turnout, which was probably close to 500 people.
It was "by far" the best turnout for an event sponsored by the International Year of the Reef committee, Tyner said. The Rhythm's bartender had not seen an event so big in his time there, she said.
Many of the people were there to enjoy the party atmosphere — listening to music, swimming, playing beach paddleball, drinking beer and snorkeling.
Kurt Schindler, St. Croix's own guitar hero, helped initiate the event, donating a concert in the evening. Jamesie and the Allstars played quelbe in the afternoon.
But the deeper meaning of the event was not overlooked, either. An activities booth had games that youngsters could play and also learn about the fragility of the reefs. The booth included information from the V.I. Network of Environmental Educators (VINE), the St. Croix East End Marine Park, the V.I. Energy Office and the St. Croix Environmental Association.
"The reefs are no longer what I remember," Schindler said. "Even in my lifetime I can see the difference."
Last summer a group in the States approached Kurt Schindler and his wife, Jenelle, about doing a benefit show for the reefs, but the proceeds went somewhere else, Jenelle said. So they decided to do a benefit show on their own with proceeds staying in the territory.
Michelle Pugh, owner of Christiansted's Dive Experience and an opponent of gill-net fishing, was scheduled to give a talk on the practice. People kept coming up to her and congratulating her on the Department of Planning of Natural Resources' recent announcement that it would begin to enforce a ban on gill-net fishing.
"We will see," she said, accepting the congratulations with a bit of reticence. "We have heard this before."
Divers from her shop used to throw food in the water so they could watch a variety of fish feed.
"Those fish are no longer there," she said.
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