In the mid-1990`s a small group of concerned men and women began looking for ways to proactively protect the BVI`s marine environment. Charter yacht captain Trish Baily suggested a poster outlining steps snorkelers, divers, and boaters could take to reduce damage to reefs, and the loose-knit group of friends and colleagues began to brainstorm.
In addition to Trish, this group included Alan and Eva Baskin, dive company owners who helped initiate the BVI National Parks Trust Mooring Buoy system; Clive Petrovic, lecturer in Environmental Sciences at the H. Lavity Stout Community College in Tortola; Randy Keil, respected dive instructor with years of experience in BVI waters, Chris and Kapua Gregory, Jane Bakewell, and Clem Hill. The esteemed artist Roger Ellis of Trellis Bay agreed to design the flyer artwork gratis.
Initially the group sought funding for the flyers under the auspices of the Natural History Society. It took nine months to raise the $7,500 needed, most of which came from trust companies and local businesses in the BVI. The Tortola Ladies Club and TICO Wines and Spirits were major contributors. Volunteers distributed the flyers to bareboat charter yacht companies, tourist organizations, and local businesses, and they were soon posted throughout the BVI. Shortly after the success of the posters, this group of friends and colleagues decided to form a reef protection organization. Kapua Gregory, now living in Hawaii, came up with the logo, and the Association of Reef Keepers was born.
ARK membership expanded with new volunteers and new ideas. Continuing its campaign to educate the public, it began briefing bareboat companies on reef ecology and distributed a pamphlet explaining the dangers of feeding fish. In 1997 ARK promoted the International Year of the Reef, and for the last several years has participated in the Yacht Charter Society Boat Show, hosting a breakfast to educate crews and brokers. ARK initiated the Erosion and Sedimentation Workshop, and has provided aid to transport school children to environmental field days.
Through its participation in environmental workshops and conferences, ARK has developed liaisons with marine environment organizations around the world, and also proudly participates in Reef Check, a worldwide effort to raise awareness about the state of coral reefs. The BVI government has recognized ARK as a responsible NGO, inviting ARK to participate in workshops such as NIDS [National Integrated Development Strategy]. In the last year the Association has been extensively involved in monitoring the environmental damage done by land development, especially at the BVI airport expansion site, attempting to influence policymakers and promote changes in environmental protection methods at the site.
Today ARK has 150 members. Most of our funding comes from membership dues and small donations. We seek funding constantly, and we could really use your help. If you wish to assist by becoming a member of ARK, please fill out our membership form today. If you`ve already made a donation this year, perhaps you can afford just a few dollars more to help us continue our efforts. Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated.
ARK looks forward to continuing its work with local organizations, businesses, tourists, and the public to promote the health of the BVI`s precious natural resources through education and activism. We hope that our latest project, the ARK web site, will help us reach these goals.