You can make a difference! MVP students are being taught both duty and self-importance. On going projects are chosen to prove that much like the planting of seeds, by coming up with ideas for community improvement, one might make a difference.

Revive 'Big Game Fishing' in the Virgin Islands

Idea: Create an agreement between the USVI and BVI governments that will allow Big Game Fishermen to freely enjoy their sport. This is written to provide the leadership with both the background on the development of the sport... and a suggestion as to how easily it can resume between friendly neighbors.

History of Big Game Fishing in the VI: In 1963 Laurance Rockefeller sought to establish the sport in both the USVI and British Virgin Islands. He had built resorts on both St. John (Caneel Bay) and Virgin Gorda (Little Dix Bay) and wanted to make the activity available for the enjoyment of his hotel guests. He hired Capt. Johnny Harms who then purchased the 55' custom built Savana Bay. Shortly afterwards, a vessel named Pond Bay (38' Bertram) was added to the fleet by another member of the Rockefeller family. Capt. Harms hired Capt. Jerry Black to assist him and six months later, Capt. Jimmy Loveland was invited to join the team. Around the same period of time, Capt. Bert Kilbride of Saba Rock fame also pioneered the sport from his area. Young mates Calvin "Red" Bailey and Joseph "Spike" Herbert (who later became well know captains themselves) soon joined in the effort and together everyone worked hard at putting the fishing in the Virgin Islands on the map.

Over the following years, many world record marlin would be captured and the Virgin Islands became famous for its exciting blue marlin fishery. Capt Harms went on to build his Johnny Harms Marina in Red Hook and Loveland took on the development of the Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT) also referred to as the "Boy Scout" tournament for its beneficiary. The event later gained popularity for being the first blue marlin tournament in the world to operate by strict "Catch and Release" rules. Today, the Virgin Islands are referred to as the "hot spot" of the sport!

Unfortunately in 2015 the BVI Customs decided to restrict access to the famous North Drop. To fish the area, vessels from the USVI had to first "clear" through BVI Customs (impractical). The popular "Boy Scout" tournament (major fundraiser for the youth) was also halted due to the BVI's Department of Fisheries first ever refusal to issue it a tournament license. Fifty plus years of efforts to promote the fishing in the Virgin Islands ended abruptly. Arguments that blue marlin are migratory and that the boats fished miles from land went ignored. Results: The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and the Bahamas are reaping the financial benefits of this wealthy sport.

Easy Fix: As was the procedure for many years, the BVI's licensing of USVI based vessels can be a simple "online" procedure. Passports can be scanned and a credit card payment made. A new "Billfish" permit with a ZERO TAKE policy could be developed. If a vessel is boarded and found to be in possession of a fish (regardless of type or where caught) all persons onboard would be subject to a fine of $5,000.00 (each) and the vessel seized to insure payment. Certainly honorable sports fishermen would be happy to pay a reasonable license fee and adhere to this agreement for the opportunity to enjoy their sport. Best, the 45+ boat "fishing fleet" would return and a huge amount of commerce would again flow between the neighboring islands.

Suggested: Its thought that the leadership of the US Virgin Islands (Governor, Customs, Immigration, U.S. Coast Guard, Commissioner of Tourism, etc.) should immediately invite their BVI counterparts to a friendly summit meeting. The goal being to again seek ways to work together to promote these "sister" destinations (each one beautiful, yet different).