Participation in eco-conscious Blue Flag program grows in V.I.


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ST. THOMAS - The more boaters that get on board with Blue Flag's new environmental initiative, the better off the territory likely will be.

The initiative, an ambassador program, designates applicants as Blue Flag members if they adhere to Blue Flag standards while operating their vessels.

"It's trying to get everyone to behave cohesively," said Valerie Peters, coordinator for the territory's Blue Flag operations.

Blue Flag is an international eco-label which is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, a nongovernmental environmental organization promoting sustainability, namely at or near beaches and marinas.

Thousands of beaches and marinas globally already have acquired the label, including many in the territory. On St. Thomas, Lindbergh Bay and Great Bay are designated as Blue Flag beaches, as are Pelican Cove on St. Croix and Trunk Bay on St. John.

Now, people within the territory are trying to establish personal links with Blue Flag.

Currently, three boat operators already have received designations as ambassadors in the territory, Peters said. The boat operators include The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, which operates The Lady Lindsey; Capt. Clide Tap, who operates Hitauk; and Benjamin Schwartz, who operates Morgan I, owned by Morgan Maritime Services.

The annual membership fee is $50, which covers the cost of a pennant and a code of conduct plaque.

"We need to get more public awareness," Schwartz said.

Schwartz, who started a boat waste collection business two years ago, said that he joined hoping to encourage others to be "green" as well and take care of the local waters.

"I service all the marinas in St. Thomas, and some areas in St. John," Schwartz said, noting that he collects anywhere from 200 to 500 gallons of waste water every day or two.

Schwartz, who gets paid by the vessel owners, said that he started the business because he was tired of seeing toilet paper floating by while in the water.

"There is a way to discharge waste without dumping it near your boat, your friends, in your water," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said that he hopes more boaters join Blue Flag so that the water will have less contaminants in it.

"Basically, it's just being green," he said.

For more information about the program, go to http://blueflagusvi.org.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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