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JulieKay
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September 20, 2012 2:04 am  

Tires have been shown to not create reef formation, despite hopes to the contrary. There are now huge dead zones underwater of piles of dead tires, ugh! But I don't think conch shells really help reef formation either. My degree is in freshwater, not saltwater, so I'm coming up blank here. Hopefully someone has an answer!

In regards to birds' nests, there are many ground nesting birds - that "dead" nest your dd collects may very well be in active use, you never know for sure. Some birds return to the same nest season after season. Also birds will often re-use nesting materials, but the number one reason is that you never know for sure when you're disturbing a nest or not. After the way birds were decimated in Hugo, and are facing an uphill battle in some cases getting re-established, I think we should give them all the help we can and leave the nests where they are found!


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stxem
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September 20, 2012 2:33 am  

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFwQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fprocs.gcfi.org%2Fpdf%2FGCFI_63-84.pdf&ei=k31aUNGyL4ek9ATv_YCYDQ&usg=AFQjCNH2t2wJVnoQPj6N4_FYrnQryKo8aA

Hopefully that link works.

Basically, the jist of the article is that old conch shells can be habitat for juvenile fishes, lobsters and other creatures.

Interactions among organisms on coral reefs are extremely complex and multifaceted. Just because something "seems" like it should be okay, doesn't mean it is okay. When I first started out in science, I thought I knew everything. It turns out, the more I learn, the more I go school, I more I read--- the more I understand how much I DON'T know. One great mentor once told me that "you don't even know what you don't know." Biology is deep and complicated. Conchs have been growing and dying in our oceans for years, leaving their shells behind. Right now, the oceans are dying. While conch shells are most likely not the key to the oceans survival, they may play a small role. And all those small roles of all those interacting organisms, when added up cumulatively, make a big impact. So why not leave them where they are and give nature a fighting chance, instead of just hoping that you aren't messing things up?

Edited to say that I guess JulieKay and I were on the same wavelength--nature is universal, whether it's bird nests or conchs!


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JulieKay
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September 20, 2012 2:41 am  

Thank you stxem, for saying more succinctly what I was thinking! 🙂

And you hit the nail on the head with your point about it being cumulative - the fact is that there are a lot more humans on the planet these days, even more than there were 25 years ago. What might have been okay as a child really just isn't okay anymore, because there just plain are too many people. The only way we all are going to survive with Mother Nature intact is to respect her a lot more, and let her be with as little impact as possible while we do our best at enjoying life. I'm hoping (a private hope, but still a hope!) that over time STX can become a haven for people seeking out nature in pristine and mostly undisturbed glory, and that that is what will draw people to our beautiful island. But the only way that will happen is if we all pitch in together.


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AandA2VI
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September 20, 2012 4:46 am  

We were asked on the flight back if we had any shells when on our PMV in July. We didn't have any but they did ask specifically

I saw about a dozen empty conch shells, over my 40+ hours in the ocean those weeks (yes I said 40+ LOL!). One housed the cutest little red octopus that I took to shallow water for some great underwater pics and then back to where I found it. They DO create safe haven and homes for other critters. Looks like last Feb a petition to add them under the endangered species act began: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/petitions/queenconch_petition2012.pdf

Here's what i found.... its is a little confusing on taking empty shells but not live ones:
LIVE CONCH:

Size Restrictions:
Minimum size of 9 inch shell length from the spire to the distal end, or 3/8 inch lip thickness (see Appendix 1). No harvest of undersized conch.

Harvest Quota:
No possession of conch meats smaller than two per pound uncleaned or three per pound cleaned. 200 conch per day per registered commercial fishing vessel. 6 conch per day per recreational (personal use) fisher; not to exceed 24 per boat per day.

Landing Restriction:
Total annual landings of conch must not exceed 50,000 lbs on St. Croix & 50,000lbs on St. Thomas/St. John. Thereafter the season will be closed until November 1st of that year. Must be landed alive and whole in the shell at final landing site. No disposal of shell at sea before landing. Taking conch to offshore cays and islands for purpose of removing from shell is prohibited. Transport of conch meat out of shell over open water is prohibited.

Sale Restriction:
No sale of undersized conch shell or meat from undersized conch. No sale of imported conch meat unless shipment is accompanied by a CITES export permit and shipment is cleared at the Port of Miami. (see Conch Imports, page 8 for exceptions and further information).

Closed Season:
June 1 - October 31. Possession of queen conch during the closed season is illegal.
( http://www.nps.gov/viis/parkmgmt/upload/Fishe r's%20Guide.pdf )

EMPTY CONCH SHELLS:
If you re taking the shells OFF island via plane, the same 9 inch rules apply although I don't (after all my reading) think its highly enforced. If your just keeping them locally the jist of what I understood was that as long as you don't collect them in the Marine park that's n the east end, you can keep them. How many, IDK.

For me its like that dolphin thing at cruise ports. I WANT to swim with them SO badly but I just cant support captivity of dolphins so I pass. Same with shells, I am creative and an artist and would LOVE to make myself a lamp, jewelry or a gift from a shell but just cant bring myself to take anything from the ocean. After all we've destroyed plenty IMO. 🙁


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AandA2VI
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September 20, 2012 4:49 am  

Thank you stxem, for saying more succinctly what I was thinking! 🙂

And you hit the nail on the head with your point about it being cumulative - the fact is that there are a lot more humans on the planet these days, even more than there were 25 years ago. What might have been okay as a child really just isn't okay anymore, because there just plain are too many people. The only way we all are going to survive with Mother Nature intact is to respect her a lot more, and let her be with as little impact as possible while we do our best at enjoying life. I'm hoping (a private hope, but still a hope!) that over time STX can become a haven for people seeking out nature in pristine and mostly undisturbed glory, and that that is what will draw people to our beautiful island. But the only way that will happen is if we all pitch in together.

Well Said


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ms411
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September 20, 2012 12:29 pm  

Beachcomber, yes, it was your link that gave Frances Newbold (not me!), publisher of St Thomas This Week, the credible information she needed to determine if she should remove that page.

Now if I can get people like Martha Stewart to stop encouraging people to collect natural objects, I'll be very happy.


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Alana33
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September 20, 2012 1:45 pm  

Here is additional info from fish and wildlife:

"There's a campaign by VINE for "leave paradise in its place" which is about not removing shells or other natural products.
Who knows how effective anything is on this island, where there is a general lack of concern for such things, and lack of interest in spreading the word."

"We have harvest regulations for conch: minimum size of 9 inch shell, must be landed alive and in shell, no disposal of shell at sea or offshore islands, transport of meat over open water prohibited, closed season June to November, possession of conch during closed season prohibited. So you'll find large piles of shells on beaches where fishermen land the conch."

"The reason shells need to stay on the beach is because they provide habitat for other creatures, like hermit crabs, but other stuff will inhabit them as well. Plus the shells break down and make sand, and all that. Conch are CITES listed, though, (convention on the trade in endangered species) so it'll illegal to take them or any part of them from one country to another without a CITES permit."


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BeachcomberStt
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September 20, 2012 2:20 pm  

"VINE" informational ad with website addresses. Virgin Island Network of Enviromental Educators.

http://www.virginislandsthisweek.com/water_activities/vine.html


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usvichic
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September 20, 2012 6:50 pm  

All of this has been very informational. Thanks for all the links. Am thinking that all the empty conch shells I see while swimming around STX are not landed live - which makes me sad.


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jhairston33
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September 22, 2012 1:53 pm  

see the VINE weblog for more information on past events incorporating the Leave Paradise in Its Place campaign from 208-2011. My understanding is DPNR DFW is gearing up to take on another similar campaign.

www.usvine.wordpress.com


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Alana33
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September 22, 2012 2:24 pm  

Here's an interesting article on the damage sunscreen, of all things, does to our reefs!
Who knew?

Sunscreens are among the products we are encouraged to use liberally to protect ourselves from
the sun’s harmful rays. However, researchers are finding that while protecting humans, some
compounds in many sunscreens can harm the coral on our reefs. Researchers testing the effects
of sunscreen on corals explain that chemicals in sunscreen can awaken coral viruses. The coral
then becomes sick and expel their life-giving algae. Without these algae, the coral “bleaches”
(turns white), and often dies.

We may not realize that the products covering our skin wash off when we enter the water, and
it adds up! Research tells us that 4,000 to 6,000 TONS of sunscreen enters reef areas annually.
This does not spread out rapidly or evenly over the entire ocean, but concentrates on popular
tourist sites. It is estimated that 90% of snorkeling/diving tourists are concentrated on 10% of the
world’s reefs. This means that our most popular reefs, such as those in our national parks, are
exposed to the majority of sunscreens.

Sunscreens: The double edged sword
As a visitor to the park and the reefs, you can reduce the risk of harming coral by taking a more
“reef friendly” approach to sun protection.
CHECK THE LABELS: While no sunscreen has been proven to be completely ‘reef-friendly,’
those with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients, have not been
found harmful to corals. Sunscreens sold for children or for those with sensitive skin may contain
these gentler compounds as the active ingredients.
COVER UP: You can protect yourself as well as the reef by ‘covering-up’ before you enter the
water. On the water, wear hats, sunglasses and light, long-sleeved clothing to protect you.
In the water, a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard will help prevent sunburn.
Remember, if it’s on your skin, it’s on the reef. Be reef friendly!
Reduce the amount of sunscreen you leave behind…


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Alana33
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September 22, 2012 2:30 pm  

http://usvine.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/sunscreen-on-reefs-nps.pdf

Here's the link.


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JulieKay
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September 22, 2012 4:13 pm  

The Dive Shops all sell reef "safe" sunscreen - I've bought mine at Big Beard's, but you can find it other places. When we have friends visit from the states I make them use it - sometimes they look at me funny, but once they get out there they understand!


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ms411
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September 22, 2012 5:22 pm  

Everybody is concerned about any and all chemicals that end up in water sources around the world. I thought I read somewhere that in one of the European countries, all sunscreen is banned. They encourage people to wear the SPF clothing. Of course, their water isn't as warm...


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