As government moves to expand the network of protected areas in the Virgin Islands, Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley intends to bring three areas already approved by Cabinet before the House Assembly for approval, he said on Feb. 25 at the HOA.

The proposed protected areas include land and marine locations on and near Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, Mr. Wheatley said.

Though he did not specify the precise areas he hopes to protect, the Protected Areas System Plan 2007-2017 calls for several spots on Anegada — including the stretch of the island from Ruffling to Pomato Point — to be designated as marine or terrestrial protected areas, while on Virgin Gorda, Savannah Bay, Mountain Point and Round Rock are among several locations that have been slated for such designations.

On and near Jost Van Dyke, the plan calls on government to protect Sandy Cay, which became a national park in 2008, as well as Sandy Spit, Thomas George Harbour, and several other locations.

According to Mr. Wheatley, his ministry also plans on “finalising the declaration of ” Great Thatch Island; Smugglers Cove and Belmont Estate; the mangroves at Hodges Creek and Bar Bay; and Long Bay, Beef Island, as protected areas.

“These areas encompass Caribbean dry forests, mangroves and salt ponds, which stabilise our coastlines, provide for our food security by serving as hatcheries and nurseries for juvenile fish, and filter runoff from our hillsides while maintaining our crystalline waters,” Mr. Wheatley said