A bill designed to protect the Virgin Islands’ natural resources passed the House of Assembly on Monday following a full day of closed-door deliberation.

The Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) Act, 2019 is designed to bring the territory’s regulations in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Some of the main functions of the bill are limiting the sale of animals and penalising illegal trade. It would also establish management and scientific oversight authorities, which would work to ensure any licensed trade does not significantly affect endangered populations.

Penalties for trading without a valid permit or illegally possessing endangered species would include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year of imprisonment. Those maximums double for species of special concern.

HOA members contended that the legislation is necessary to protect the territory’s natural resources.

Opposition member Mitch Turnbull also cautioned that other parts of the world are taking note of the value of the VI’s flora and fauna. He said the territory must take the lead in promoting and protecting its assets.

Also speaking in support, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said it will be important with such conservation legislation to figure out what works best for protecting different species and protecting fishers’ livelihoods.

The bill now joins a long list of legislation awaiting assent from Governor Gus Jaspert. Once Mr. Jaspert assents, the bill would become law, and the full, amended version would become public.