Marine debris accumulation in a mangrove forest in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Photo: Kristin Wilson Grimes, University of the Virgin Islands).

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Removing Marine Debris in U.S. Virgin Island Cays and Mangroves

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands, is conducting community cleanups and collecting marine debris composition data in cays and mangrove forests in St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Caribbean

Project Dates: September 2022 - August 2024

Who is involved?
The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and in partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands’ Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, is removing and monitoring accumulation of marine debris from uninhabited cays and mangrove forests.

What is the project and why is it important?
In addition to the devastation to human life and property, hurricanes can create large amounts of marine debris, especially in island communities that are susceptible to these disasters. This debris can easily accumulate in sensitive habitats like mangrove forests and other vulnerable areas.  

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, alongside partners from the University of the Virgin Islands, are removing and monitoring debris accumulations in uninhabited cays and mangrove forests, where little or no local data currently exist. Using an adapted version of the methods in the NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project Shoreline Survey Guide, partners are collecting information on the composition, location, and quantity of medium to large debris types, especially derelict fishing gear and hurricane-deposited debris. Because these removals are the first of their kind for offshore cays in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these activities provide important new information to natural resource managers about protecting essential habitats and wildlife species.

Last updated Tue, 10/10/2023 - 08:33 pm EDT