A marine survey set to start soon will help the territory better protect and utilise its ocean resources, officials said last week.

The exercise comes out of a March 18 memorandum of understanding signed by the Recovery and Development Agency and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

As part of the project, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour will conduct marine surveys in partnership with the UK’s National Oceanography Centre to “formulate a base of evidence for marine spatial planning to improve maritime policy decisions and sustainable use of environmental resources,” according to Government Information Services.

Vincent Wheatley, the minister of natural resources, labour and immigration, attended the signing and thanked the UK government for its support to the VI through the hurricane recovery process.

“This marine survey is important to the BVI because it allows the territory to make a step towards moving from an Exclusive Fishing Zone to an Exclusive Economic Zone,” Mr. Wheatley (R-D9) said. “This would diversify opportunities to not only sustainably fish but derive other economic benefits, including access to the 200-nautical-mile area comprising the waters of the
Virgin Islands.”

He added that having control of the entire “special element” of the 200-mile zone surrounding the territory will open new opportunities in entrepreneurship, development and conservation.

“This may seem like a simple survey, but it is really the fundamental thing that needs to happen for a lot of other things to take place,” he said.

Several agencies under the ministry will learn skills that will assist in performing similar surveys in the future, according to GIS.