The United States Virgin Islands are comprised of two separate insular platforms separated by the deep water Anegada Passage. Although managed by the same regulations, as one fishery, several physical and spatial differences exist between the two northern shelf islands, St. Thomas and St. John, and isolated St. Croix. Based on two long-term fisheries independent datasets, collected by the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, there were significant differences between the northern USVI and St. Croix in both the occurrence and size of several species of large and commercially important reef fishes. These fishes are primarily apex piscivores and generally the first species over-exploited in small-scale fisheries. The disparities between the fish communities on the two island shelves cannot be explained solely by differences in habitat (coral cover, rugosity) or fisheries management, such as relative amount of marine protected area in local waters. They are instead probably caused by a combination of several other interrelated factors including water depth, fishing methodology, fishable area, and the presence or absence of viable fish spawning areas. This study considers those aspects, and illustrates the need for management of island artisanal fisheries that is tailored to the physical and spatial constraints imposed by insular platforms.
US Virgin Islands