After yet another spate of tragic deaths in the ocean, it’s high time to step up efforts to confront this public health crisis.

Water accidents are difficult to address in real time: In the moment they occur, there is often little that can be done. Bystanders and responders frequently rush in and put themselves at risk to save lives. But these brave efforts sometimes fail.

For example, the annual Easter holiday was marred by the heart-wrenching death of a 10-year-old girl in an apparent drowning at Virgin Gorda’s Savannah Bay. Weeks earlier, a visiting surfer perished at Cappoons Bay.

And each year, Virgin Islands news headlines detail multiple swimming and boating deaths, often involving tourists whose dream holidays ended in tragedy.

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims.

While some tragedies are unavoidable, many lives could be saved if more resources were put toward risk reduction, emergency response and education.

The VI government, for instance, should look to the recent past, when it boasted a more robust lifeguard programme. Currently, the government employs only two lifeguards, who are typically posted at Smugglers Cove and Josiahs Bay.

Though a flag system is used to warn beachgoers of dangerous ocean conditions, much more needs to be done. At a bare minimum, the lifeguard programme should be expanded substantially to properly cover The Baths and Cane Garden Bay — usually the territory’s two busiest beaches.

Enhancing swimming and marine education programmes is another essential step. Fortunately, a solid groundwork has been laid with the help of non-governmental organisations that offer free or low-cost swimming lessons.

But in addition to these efforts, annual swimming lessons and marine safety training should be compulsory in all public and private schools. Taking a few days out of class each year to familiarise students with marine dangers and prepare them with basic skills is a life-saving investment.

Given the high number of victims who are tourists, the BVI Tourist Board and tourism operators must educate visitors about marine dangers. Too often, activities such as snorkeling are treated as safe for anyone. They’re not. And it appears that inadequate physical conditioning is a contributor in many related deaths.

Visitors and residents alike must be reminded to know their limits lest a snorkeling or other swimming trip turn deadly. Also key is educating everyone about the dangers of currents and other hazards that might not be immediately obvious when viewing the ocean from a beach or the deck of a boat.

In a territory of islands, the sea’s power is ever present, but its perils can be veiled by its beauty.

The dangers should never be forgotten.