Monday Dec 10

UK billionaire discusses sargassum solutions with OECS ministers


ponteen_branson_hogan.jpg
(L-R) Montserrat Chief Fisheries Officer Alwyn Ponteen, philanthropist and investor Sir Richard Branson and Montserrat Minister of Trade and Environment Claude Hogan

MOSKITO ISLAND, BVI -- Officials from the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda, along with leading scientists and experts from around the world, joined British billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson this week in the BVI to discuss the ongoing issue of sargassum seaweed, which is affecting the Caribbean and the very important tourism industry.

It is a high stakes event involving the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), with expectations of immediate solutions to stem the problem to include making a business from sargassum.

Branson is working with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to develop a regional strategy to be implemented locally by member states. The OECS is acting as the technical moderator for the conference along with BVI technicians and Branson's own team of environmentalists.

“Sargussum seaweed is a threat to tourism, the livelihood of fishers and the marine environment,” Montserrat’s minister of trade and environment Claude Hogan noted. “Finding a strategy which we can action locally is the dominant theme of the conference."

The environment ministers of Montserrat, BVI, Anguilla and Antigua have been asked to champion the project to work with Branson and his Virgin Unite charity to find solutions to the problem.

Hogan said they have identified some of the main issues but no single solution has yet been formulated.

"One of the bullets is public education and information on Sargassum," he said.

There's also the use of Sargassum as an animal feed.

Branson has also shared that energy must be given to conserving seafood and managing the catches of lobster in particular. According to Hogan, the investor is willing to pay for his methods to be implemented and he has already agreed a marine project for Montserrat.

The billionaire, who owns Moskito Island, along with nearby Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, has more than 400 companies under his Virgin brand. Many of these companies, including Virgin and Virgin Holidays, are in the travel industry. Moskito Island is part of the Virgin Limited Edition franchise, which features three villas and can house up to 22 guests for exclusive use according to the website.

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