The updated Coastal Resources Atlas is a detailed map of the territorial sea, including coral, sand, mud, rock and other marine habitat types. (File photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

The territory’s Coastal Resources Atlas has been updated and expanded, and public officers from several departments learned how best to use it during a recent two-day conference.

The atlas is a detailed map of the entire territorial sea, including coral, sand, mud, rock, rubble, seagrass and other marine habitat types, according to government.

The extensive update was funded in part by the United Kingdom government’s Darwin Plus initiative, which supports projects designed to protect biodiversity and build resilience to climate change in the overseas territories.

“The coastal atlas and [Marine Spatial Planning] Tool training workshop will no doubt be of great benefit for participating officers, who in turn will be able to assist in the protection and preservation of the BVI environment,” said Ronald Smith-Berkeley, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change. “The BVI/UK partnership lends opportunities to our public officers so they can achieve this objective of protecting the environment.”

Environmental Officer Rozina Norris-Gumbs, who specialises in Geographical Information Systems for environmental management, said the update was badly needed. The data used for the past 15 years, she said, covered only a small portion of the territory’s coastal areas.

“At the end of this training, we hope to be able to learn how to input accurate information into this tool so we are able to obtain answers [to questions] that we may have about our marine resources, such as preventative measures that would not put unnecessary stress to sensitive areas — and what harmful activities to refrain from that would negatively affect our natural environment,” she said.

Officers also received training in using the newly acquired MSP Tool, which will be used to assess the effects of human activities such as pollution, development practices, illegal fishing, and recreation on marine habitats, according to government.


The training was conducted by Dr. James Strong, a member of the National Oceanic Centre in the UK, as well as Shane Pinder and Neil Thurston of WSP Global Inc., who designed the MSP toolbox utilising Geographical Information Systems software. Their previous work in the territory included the creation of the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment Tool that is currently being utilised by the Department of Disaster Management.

Workshop participants included representatives from the ministry as well as the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Town and Country Planning Department, the National Parks Trust, the Lands and Survey Department, and the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry.

Ongoing programme

The two-day workshop was part of an ongoing programme that started in 2019 for the underwater survey training held at the time.

It was part of two Darwin Plus-funded projects, and other partners include the Joint Nature Consultation Committee, the National Oceanic Centre, and MSP Global Inc., according to government. All are based in the UK.