This document presents a comprehensive overview of results from more than a decade of work by the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Biogeography Branch and the Department of the Interior National Park Service (NPS) to assess status and trends within and around federally managed marine protected areas (MPAs) of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
The report provides: (1) an overview of the history of MPAs, types of MPAs and associated regulations, and a list of all MPAs in the USVI; (2) an ecological performance report for three intensively surveyed MPA units managed by NPS, including 20 biological metrics for fish and benthic habitat; (3) sightings of large-bodied fishes with moderate to high vulnerability to fishing; and (4) synthesis, summary and recommendations for management.
This report is the first time that an assessment of ecological performance has been conducted for MPAs in the USVI. A decade of underwater surveys was analyzed to detect trends on coral reefs inside MPAs and for a similar range of habitats outside of MPAs. The information, data synthesis, interpretation and recommendations are intended to help focus management actions and goal setting, inform outreach products and adjust expectations regarding ecological performance for MPAs in the region. The data presented here provide important baselines required for tracking MPA performance through future monitoring efforts.