OSV BOLD to Study Reefs in Virgin Islands

For nearly three weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will study coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea around the U.S. Virgin Islands. Starting Feb 24, EPA’s ocean survey vessel, the OSV BOLD, conducted a series of scientific observations to help protect and improve the environment in the waters around St. Thomas and St. John. The ship will also be open to the public when it docks in St. Thomas on March 5.

“The coral reefs off the U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the most ecologically significant in the world, so protecting their health is a priority for EPA,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “The state-of-the-art OSV BOLD represents EPA’s commitment to scientific research at the highest level and allows our scientists to collect valuable data that supports the conservation efforts of our partners in the region.”

EPA scientists and divers will observe and analyze coral reefs at some 60 locations near St. Thomas and St. John to create a robust and quantified record of existing coral conditions; a similar study took place last year near St. Croix. Data from the studies will be used to develop water quality standards under the Clean Water Act and to enhance the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources’ (DPNR) coral reef monitoring. The study contributes to EPA’s ongoing effort to understand and quantify the benefits ecosystems provide, known as ecosystem services.

Agency scientists will be joined by researchers from DPNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy throughout the 19-day voyage.

They also willdocument the presence of crabs, lobsters, sea urchins and conchs, and monitor water quality for potentially harmful nutrients.

To follow their research, visit http://blog.epa.gov/blog/.