The Virgin Islands will soon see a mangrove reforestation project designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change, according to Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley.

Mangroves provide critical functions like protecting shorelines, fostering fish hatcheries, and trapping runoff and sediments, Mr. Wheatley said during the Dec. 17 House of Assembly sitting.

He added that the NRL Ministry “will vigorously pursue the establishment of a mangrove nursery that will supply seedlings to restore our shorelines and ecosystems functions that mangroves provide.”

Another key component of the ministry’s environmental strategy, Mr. Wheatley said, is the expansion of the Protected Area Network through the establishment of new national parks.

Meanwhile, the Department of Disaster Management announced on Friday that representatives from government entities and non-governmental organisations met to discuss plans “to combine their resources and expertise while working to restore the territory’s mangroves” as part of an upcoming phase of the SMART Communities Project, a Caribbean Development Bank-funded initiative that aims to build flood-resilient communities in the VI.

“I am happy to see that we are moving more aggressively toward taking care of our mangroves,” Mr. Wheatley said in the press release. “Mangroves provide nurseries for our sea life as well as protect us against storm surges.”
He added that the VI has collected large amounts of data “over the years” on planting mangroves.

Dr. Louise Soanes, conservation scientist and consultant for the mangrove restoration portion of the SMART Communities Project, said one of the initiative’s top priorities is mapping the best locations for mangroves to be planted.

“We need to know what space is available and the areas where mangroves can thrive,” Dr. Soanes said. “We also want to show what areas can receive protection in the event of a storm surge based on the location of the mangroves.”

She added that the project includes community partnerships like training in mangrove restoration and management as well as future opportunities for public participation, like mangrove cleanups and planting days.