British Virgin Islands
Between latitudes 18° 26’ N and 18° 44’ N
and longitudes 64° 20’ W and 64° 37’ W
Conservation and Fisheries
Department, Government of the
More information available at -
British Virgin Islands
Basic facts and Figures
Number of islands
The British Virgin Islands is located within the Eastern Caribbean between
latitudes 18° 26’ N and 18° 44’ N and longitudes 64° 20’ W and 64° 37’ W.
. The four main islands are Tortola (54km
), Anegada (38km
Virgin Gorda (21km
) and Jost van Dyke (9km
The BVI consists of 60 small islands, cays and rocks.
Most islands are hilly with steep slopes (uplifted submerged volcanoes)
except for Anegada, the northernmost island of the BVI, which is a coral
The main economic activities are financial services and tourism, with
yachting being an important sector within the latter industry. Tortola is the
UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies: 2011 Biodiversity snapshot
The BVI is included in regional and international multilateral environmental agreements
(MEAs). Status of ratification of key MEAs: See also Appendix 1.
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
Convention on Migratory Species
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
World Heritage Convention
The BVI has nine pieces of legislation dealing with protected areas, species protection and
conservation. See Appendix 2 for more details.
National environmental strategies
BVI has three main biodiversity related plans and policies for the entire territory as well as a
Biodiversity Action Plan for Anegada, which is the second largest island in the BVI. An
environmental profile for Jost Van Dyke was also completed in 2009. See Appendix 3 for
The Government of the Virgin Islands, Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour has
developed a well-structured system of marine and terrestrial protected areas. Terrestrial
areas consist of national parks, bird sanctuaries, wetlands / salt ponds, forestry and
watershed protected areas. Currently, the BVI National Parks Trust manages 19 land-based
national parks (five of which are bird sanctuaries) and one marine park. The Conservation
and Fisheries Department manages 14 fisheries protected areas and Agriculture
Department manages six watershed protected areas and one forestry protected area. A
detailed breakdown of designated protected areas is included in Appendix 4.
Investigations to identify Red Hind Epinephelus guttatus spawning sites within the
and thus, this information will be used to assist in the management of the fish stock.
Mapping of the distribution of all important, endangered and endemic organisms within
other projects such as habitat monitoring programmes.
Identify and develop actions that can affect the status of invasive species in the BVI
manages land in the Territory, both directly and through its Departments of Agriculture,
Conservation and Fisheries, National Parks Trust, Survey and Land Registry. In addition the
Town and Country Planning Department, under the Premier’s Office manages all
development within the Territory.
The National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands is a Statutory Body that is legally responsible
for managing the protected areas system of the BVI. The National Parks Ordinance (1978
revision) established the National Parks Trust, and provided for the creation of national
parks as protected areas to be managed by the Trust. They also proposed the 2007 – 2017
System Plan, in which more protected areas were proposed.
including the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society (JVDPS); the Virgin Islands Environmental
Council (VIEC); the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network BVI Chapter (CYEN-BVI
Chapter) and Green VI. See also Appendix 6.
forests. There are also rain forests on the upper slopes of the larger islands of Tortola and
Virgin Gorda (Petit and Prudent 2008). Also present within the BVI are woodlands and
square metres to The Anegada reef which is made up of close to 77km² of coral (Smith
2000). Anegada is also the home of the Anegada Horseshoe reef which is the third largest
Horseshoe Reef © BVI National Trust
barrier reef in the world. The archipelago also has 580 hectares of mangroves (of which
75% are found in Anegada) (Sanders 2006). There are also sea grasses, sandy stretches,
salt ponds, ghuts and sub-marine hills and vales (Petit and Prudent 2008).
The British Virgin Islands supports approximately 45 plant species endemic to the Puerto
Rican bank (Sanders 2006). This includes single-island endemics including the threatened
Acacia anegadensis and Metastelma anegadense (in Anegada) and Calyptranthes
kiaerskovii (in Virgin Gorda). Other Red Listed species include the Cordia rupicola and
Leptocereus quadricostatus (in Anegada). One quarter of the 24 reptiles and amphibians
are endemic. Among them the Anegada rock iguana Cyclura pinguis is only found on the
Island of Anegada.
Summary of the 2008 IUCN red listed species for the British Virgin Islands
Threats to biodiversity in the BVI include natural disasters as well as man-made factors.
Some of the more common threats to biodiversity include habitat loss/fragmentation,
sedimentation, anchor damage, marine pollution, insensitive development, climate change
and invasive species.
Invasive species: The BVI have a considerable amount of invasive species within its small
domain. Terrestrially the Cuban tree frog, Mongoose and feral rats and cats are becoming a
great nuisance to the environment. In the marine environment, the newly introduced Lion
fish is causing a great impact on marine animals and thus the fisheries industry. All these
invasive species threaten the growth and survival of native organisms.
Climate change: Climate Change brings a series of impacts globally; the BVI expects
higher temperatures and increase in hurricane and flood events. These events will cause
considerable impact on both the terrestrial and marine environments. The increase in
temperatures will put 20% to 30% of local plant species at greater risk of extinction in
addition to encouraging bleaching events of one of our tourist attractions; the coral reefs.
Hurricanes and flooding events also puts animals and other plant species at high risk of
danger due to habitat loss and increase of diseases among livestock and plants (Burnett
developmental activities which have resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation.
See also Appendix 7.
The British Virgin Islands has undertaken a number of terrestrial and marine projects over
the last five years.
The Lionfish (Pterois volitans) eradication project was initiated in 2009 after the
Conservation and Fisheries Department received funding from JNCC. This project
provides a framework to coordinate activities among government and non-
governmental agencies and local businesses and organisations to prevent the lionfish
from negatively impacting the Virgin Islands fisheries, marine ecosystems and
endangering public safety.
To control the invasion of lionfish and suppress the local populations in local waters,
the Department trained persons through a series of workshops and educated the
public on the invasive species through brochures, signage and media/public
Diving © BVI National Trust.
Acting Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour
Mr Bertrand Lettsome
Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer
Conservation and Fisheries Department
Mr Kelvin Penn
Deputy Conservation and Fisheries Officer
Conservation and Fisheries Department
Mr Joseph Smith Abbott
National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands
Mr. Bevin Brathwaite
Chief Agricultural Officer
Mangrove © BVI National Trust
Burnett Penn, Angela. 2005.
The Terrestrial Biodiversity of the Virgin Islands.
Burnett Penn, Angela. 2010.
The Virgin Islands Climate Change Green Paper.
Conservation and Fisheries Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour.
GeoHack, Anegada. Accessed 25th March, 2001.
GeoHack, Norman Islands. Accessed 25th March, 2011.
GeoHack, Little Tobago, British Virgin Islands. Accessed 25th March, 2011.
National Parks Trust. 2007.
British Virgin Islands Protected Areas System Plan 2007-2017
All Appendices referred to in this chapter are available at