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St. Thomas - St. John Environment


Our unique and varied terrestrial & aquatic habitats are our
V.I. Natural Treasures.
The following is important information about Virgin Islands
habitats & environments:

Our beaches are some of our most important assets and natural treasures. Magens Bay is famous as being listed on National Geographic's list of the top 10 beaches in the world. Recently, another poll by Yahoo! Travel and National Geographic Traveler magazine listed St. Thomas and St. John beaches in the top 10 of favorite beaches in the United States (see August 14, 2003 St. Thomas Source© article).

Help use protect these valuable natural treasures of the Virgin Islands by following the recommendations listed below:

Use of beaches:
Many of our beaches are turtle nesting areas. Please do not disturb any nests found.

Dogs should be on a leash. Note: Dogs are not allowed on V.I. National Park Beaches.

Respect others rights and safety and sanitation needs "poop and scoop."

"Take only pictures, Leave only footprints": Please don't leave any trash or debris on the beach - use trash cans or dumpsters, if available, or pack out your refuse.

Don't drive on the beach — cars, trucks and other vehicles can leak harmful fluids like gas & oil that pollute the water and kill birds & sea creatures.

Don't fuel jet skis in the water — gas can leak or spill and contaminate the water, harming sea life. Please fuel your recreational equipment at home.

Enjoy yourself!

Coral Reefs & Seagrasses

Corals reefs and sea grass beds are an essential component to the food chain and to human life. Coral and algae live together in reef colonies providing food source for marine organisms. Sea grass beds stabilize shallow, sandy bottoms, providing habitat for juvenile fish and shellfish, and the primary food source for our endangered turtle species.

A Coral reef consists of colonies of very small animals which often take hundreds of years to form the structures we see today as the coral reef to explore. The sea fans which are soft corals are often mistaken for plants, take many years to even grow a few inches.

Just touching corals to see what they feel like, can kill an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. A snorkler or divers fins can accidentally hit and break off coral colonies. Standing on coral to adjust a mask can do significant damage to a colony.

Boat anchors should be placed in sandy bottom areas to avoid dredging up vast areas of corals or sea grass. Make sure the anchor rode will swing clear of any coral heads or sea grasses. The best practice is to use one of the many moorings provided by the National Park Service or the Reef foundation.


Long viewed by developers as a wasted areas to be dredged or filled, mangrove swamps and lagoons are an essential component to the food chain and to human life. Many of the juvenile fish and other sea creatures who feed on coral and algae live in the shelter of mangrove roots.

Mangrove root systems also filter storm water runoff, allowing sediment and other pollutants to be removed before entering open water. The sediment can otherwise cover and kill coral reef colonies. The run-off can be high in organic material, such as leaves from the forests. The decaying trapped organics provides nutrients for the various life forms in the mangrove swamps.

Mangrove areas also protect shorelines from erosion by waves and storms.

Many species of birds live in and around mangroves to feed on the insects breeding in the shallow waters or the small creatures living in the water or sediment.

The Red Mangrove species can be found growing in the clear water along shorelines, first in from the ocean. These are the mangroves that have 'prop' roots. Black Mangroves grow slightly further inland, in the shallow muddy areas of lagoons and salt ponds. These mangroves are noted for their 'snorkel' roots, which stick up out of the mud to collect oxygen. White Mangroves are found further inland, in saline ground where it is only slightly muddy. Buttonwood is a mangrove found last in succession inland, on drier saline soil.





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What is Our Environment?

Our environment is the sum of the physical, chemical & biotic (air, water, soil, plants, animals) factors that act on us as a community and ultimately determine our community's form, quality of life & survival. Our immediate environment is our home and yard. Our larger environment is the town or estate we live in, our island, the Caribbean, and the world. Everything is inter-related, inter-connected, inter-dependent.

Everything we do affects our environment:

• How often & how far we drive our cars
• How we maintain our cars
• The products we buy and use
• What we throw away and how we throw it away
• How we build our houses
• What we do in our yards
• Even what we pour down our sinks or flush down
  our toilets!

Our economy depends on the allure of our warm sunny climate, sandy beaches, clear, clean water and healthy reefs.

Our health depends on clean air and water and even the aesthetics (or beauty) of our surroundings:

• We depend on clean air, water, roads, beaches, seafood for our health, wealth & emotional well-being;
• We all enjoy the land & sea in some way: gardening, hiking, bathing, soaking, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, fishing, even eating seafood!
We can all chip in to help protect & preserve our environment:
• minimize yard/land clearing & plant trees, bushes and other plants (especially native species);
• keep our cars tuned up & consolidate trips to save gas, money and time;
• buy products in bulk, buy products made from recycled materials & buy less-toxic household products;
• reduce, reuse & recycle;
• don't pour toxic products down the drain or toilet or in the yard.

For more information on environmentally-friendly practices & products, contact EAST or the UVI Cooperative Extension Service or visit the Extension Service website.

Fishing Tips
Season Limits for Conch, Whelk and Lobster:
• Conch Season is OPEN from October 1 to June 30. Conch must be 9" (22.5cm) long and landed in the shell.
• Whelk Season is OPEN from October 1 to March 30. Whelk must be larger than 2.5" (6.25cm) to keep
• Caribbean Spiny Lobster may be taken at any time. Lobster must have a carapace length of at least 3.5" (8.75cm). Females with eggs must be returned to the water
Note: Within the VI National Park, the limit for conch is two (2) per person, the limit for Whelk is one (1) gallon per person and the limit for Lobster is two (2) per person. You may not have more than two day's limit in your possession.