No fishy business
A Beaconite has had fish on the brain. Recently she reported on the Blue Belt fish monitoring programme coming to the overseas territories; discussed proposed changes to the Virgin Islands’ fishing sector with friends; caught up with a fisherman who lives next door; chatted with her fish biologist father; and watched the popular documentary Seaspiracy. She found the documentary engaging and nuanced in some areas, particularly in its handling of how piracy arose from the decimation of fisheries in eastern Africa. But as some critics have pointed out, the documentary’s overarching message — which suggested that everyone must drastically reduce their consumption of seafood — seemed a bit extreme. The VI is an island nation that relies on the blue economy. Beyond the issue of food availability, cutting out the fishing industry wholesale would mean losing an important part of history. But it’s also impossible to ignore the effects of large-scale commercial fishing operations and the waste they generate. The reporter hopes that if there’s one thing her parents instilled in her, it would be to respect and appreciate the beautiful resources around her. It seems impractical to just “leave the oceans alone” as the documentary suggested, but it is very possible and necessary to look critically at how the industry is regulated in the VI. Especially as the territory invests in growing the fishing sector, it will be important for all residents to speak up. Does the territory need harsher penalties for overharvesting? More streamlined services for getting properly licensed? More specific regulations for bag limits? Stricter enforcement of existing rules? The future success of the VI’s blue economy depends on having those tough conversations now.
Attracting remote workers has been one of the many concepts floated by the Virgin Islands government in order to attract more visitors and jump-start the economy during and after the pandemic. A Beaconite just spent nearly a month working entirely remotely with hardly any hiccups. She thinks it’s a good idea, although the VI already lags behind many countries in implementing a “digital nomad” visa programme. Locally, many workers are already working remotely, including those who never thought it would be feasible. Some offices may continue with the practice even after the pandemic, finding it cheaper and more efficient for any number of reasons. Of course, the proper infrastructure, which includes telecommunications, will be key. In any case, remote work will be a permanent part of the future, and those economies that embrace it seem most likely to thrive.
Though government regulations prevented many large gatherings from taking place this Easter weekend, some smaller events were filled with fun. At Long Bay Resort, guests were encouraged to participate in a pyjama party and pillow fight. Set on the beach, organisers set up a pillow fighting ring surrounded by tiki torches. Contestants had to stand on separate platforms and swing pillows at each other. Every now and then, the pillow fights would get very intense. No one got hurt, though. It was all in good fun. For a Beaconite, it was heart-warming to see families having a fun time while staying safe and social distancing.
One consequence of the pandemic that a Beaconite didn’t initially expect but has come to enjoy has been the arrival of visitors staying in the Virgin Islands for several weeks as they work remotely. As much as he appreciates the tight-knit community here, it is nice to have some fresh faces in the mix. And he finds that those who are lucky enough to decamp here for a while tend to be interesting people pursuing interesting careers. Compared to many other tourists, they also seem to have a deeper interest in the territory’s culture, government and history, and they are keen to interact with and learn about the people who live here. Of course, government should make it a priority to loosen border restrictions and welcome in all tourists as soon as possible. But even when it is safe to allow in cruise shippers, weekend sailors from St. Thomas, and all sorts of other guests who might frequent the territory’s shores for just a night or two, the Beaconite hopes the government still tries to court long-term tourists like “digital nomads.” He suspects that they present an untapped market, and can contribute to the VI’s social fabric in ways that cruise shippers and other tourists — simply for a lack of time spent here — usually cannot.