9 Junio – Informe sobre la Bahia Bioluminiscente – Mark Martin

Saludos a todos los amigos y admiradores de la Bahía Bioluminiscente de Puerto Mosquito, nuestra gran bahía en Vieques,
Durante las últimas semanas han tomado lugar algunos sucesos relacionados a nuestra bahía y estos han dado lugar a conversaciones, discusiones públicas en Radio Vieques y otros desarrollos. Me gustaría informarles tanto a nuestros miembros como a todos aquellos preocupados por la situación en el momento y por el futuro de la bahía. Incluyendo también información sobre los esfuerzos del Fideicomiso de Conservación e Historia de Vieques y lo que ya se ha planificado para llevarse a cabo durante las próximas semanas y también durante los meses del verano. Además de este artículo, el FCHV celebró un foro especial el 31 de mayo sobre la bahia.
Desde su Fundación el FCHV se ha enfocado en la conservación del equilibrio natural que hace de Puerto Mosquito uno de los mejores ejemplos de la bioluminiscencia en todo el planeta. Durante los últimos meses hemos estado trabajando con científicos y con las autoridades reguladoras para determinar la causa o causas de la disminución en la bioluminiscencia. Esto es un trabajo arduo y de mucha paciencia y el cual involucra una continua y constante recolección y análisis de datos. Aunque la bioluminiscencia ha aumentado algo todavía se observan períodos de inestabilidad. Hay que esperar por los resultados de las pruebas adicionales que se han hecho para tener la certeza de si esta tendencia continuará, o si la bioluminiscencia se estabilizará.
Recientemente un grupo de ciudadanos de Vieques colocó barreras para cerrar los caminos hacia la bahía y han expuesto sus argumentos en una serie de reuniones y comunicaciones. El Departamento de Recursos Naturales de P.R. (quien administra la Reserva) estuvo presente en algunas de estas y así también el FCHV. Nos hemos reunido con el administrador de la Reserva, el Sr. Edgardo Belardo. También se hizo un viaje nocturno de observación, en el cual estuvo el Sr. Belardo, representantes de la agencia y el FCHV. El debate público se ha llevado a cabo en diversos foros, entre ellos Radio Vieques WVQR. En este foro han estado presentes la Directora del Depto. de Recursos Naturales, la Sra. Carmen Guerrero, miembros del grupo que protestó poniendo la barrera al acceso, representantes de los operadores turísticos que utilizan la bahía y el FCHV. Una serie de reuniones han explorado las posibles opciones para hacer frente a la situación.
Como resultado de esta recopilación o de información, el Dept. de Recursos Naturales (DRNA) de P.R., el cual tiene jurisdicción legal sobre la bahía, declaró una moratoria en el uso de Puerto Mosquito efectiva el lunes 5 de Mayo de 2014. La bahía estará cerrada durante el día, y el uso por los operadores turísticos y el público será únicamente entre las 6:00 PM (18:00) y las 12:00 de la medianoche, los días viernes, sábados y domingos. La orden de esta moratoria también especifica que los propietarios de embarcaciones (motorizados o no) deben ser retirados de la bahía. Se prohíbe el uso de embarcaciones de gas o motores diésel durante la duración de esta moratoria. La misma regulará el uso de la bahía por un período de dos meses.
Durante la moratoria el Fideicomiso de Conservación e Historia de Vieques, USGS, la Junta de Calidad Ambiental (JCA) y la Universidad de P.R. continuarán llevando a cabo una serie de estudios y muestreos, recopilación de datos para determinar las condiciones de la bahía incluyendo información sobre este período de disminución de la bioluminiscencia. El FCHV ha recomendado una serie de estudios a largo plazo. Continuaremos la vigilancia de la salud de la bahía y el promover una mejor comprensión de las dinámicas de su funcionamiento.
Aún antes de que esta grave y súbita disminución de la bioluminiscencia ocurriese, ya el Fideicomiso estaba consciente de la situación precaria de la bahía. El último artículo que el FCHV publicó en el Vieques Events menciona el oscurecimiento de la Laguna Bioluminiscente de Fajardo y se insta a la implementación de estrategias de conservación para garantizar el salvaguardar a Puerto Mosquito. En este artículo se explicaron los hallazgos en Fajardo y se presentó la posibilidad de un cuadro similar en Vieques. Se expusieron varios puntos: la necesidad de la aplicación de análisis de capacidad, el seguimiento científico constante (incluyendo el conteo de dinoflagelados), la supervisión, la educación, el control de la contaminación lumínica, y el control del uso del suelo y terreno circundante a la bahía. Desde sus comienzos el Fideicomiso de Vieques ha expuesto estas estrategias y recomendaciones.
Además del Fideicomiso de Vieques también han sido expuestas por estudiantes, asesores científicos, miembros de la comunidad que asistieron al Simposio sobre Bioluminiscencia (organizado por el VCHV). El año pasado nuestros estudiantes de Manta presentaron un documento con recomendaciones para la protección de la bahía al Secretario del Dpto. de Recursos Naturales. También el pasado año recibimos la aprobación y financiamiento para implementar algunos de nuestros proyectos basados en las recomendaciones hechas por años. Siempre continuamos esforzándonos en conseguir nuevas contribuciones y fondos para llevar a cabo más proyectos.
Al momento aquí ofrecemos la actualización de los proyectos en marcha.
• El Control de Sedimentos en el camino que va de la Bahía Puerto Mosquito al balneario “Sun Bay” está por comenzar este mes y terminarse para el otoño. El DRNA aseguró los fondos de contrapartida (“matching funds”) que el Fideicomiso necesitaba. Ya el acuerdo con ellos ha sido firmado.
• La instalación de una estación permanente de monitoreo en tiempo real de los parámetros de calidad del agua, las mareas, la clorofila y datos meteorológicos está pronta a cumplirse. Esta estación se instalará cerca del centro de la bahía y transmitirá la data a través de satélite. El financiamiento ha sido aprobado y solo queda el permiso final del Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército.
• Durante los últimos meses se inició y llevó a cabo un estudio basado en el recuento a corto plazo de los dinoflagelados. Las muestras de agua están siendo analizadas en la Universidad de P.R., Recinto de Humacao.
• El análisis de las condiciones atmosféricas continúa, y se está preparando el informe que incluirá el conteo de dinoflagelados y los resultados de otros estudios paralelos.
• Se estableció un acuerdo con la JCA y el USGS en la investigación de campo de sus estudios con respecto a los nutrientes, los perfiles de calidad del agua de la bahía y estudios sobre la productividad.
• Instalamos lo que se conoce como una regla de fluctuación del nivel del agua para ayudar a determinar las variaciones en este aspecto.
• Varios de nuestros asesores en el comité de investigación están ayudando en este proceso son: Dr. Juan González Lagoa, Dr. John Wise, Dr. Miguel Sastre, Dr. Marc Albrecht y otros investigadores.
• Se está organizando un taller informativo sobre la Bahía de Puerto Mosquito, el cual incluirá estudios y hallazgos que se han hecho a través de los años y actualización de las condiciones al momento.
• Se está estudiando la posibilidad de adquirir (alquilando o comprando) un “bathyphoto meter” el cual permite estudiar la bioluminiscencia con un método mucho más rápido.
• Se han solicitado cotizaciones para adquirir un microscopio especializado para determinar el recuento de células en el laboratorio Langorne del FCHV.
• Se está organizando una limpieza masiva como parte de las mejoras que se llevarán a cabo durante la moratoria.
• Nos hemos reunido con el Fideicomiso de Conservación de P.R. con el propósito de establecer normas en común para las prácticas en manejo, las mismas prácticas que se han recomendado para todas las bahías bioluminiscentes de P.R.
• El FCHV ha patrocinado y/o participado en múltiples estudios relacionados a la bahía. Estos incluyen desde proyectos locales de estudiantes, proyectos de grado y tesis doctorales, nuevos estudios piloto de tecnología, y se han llevado a cabo los perfiles de diversos análisis de la bahía. Nuestra colaboración ha incluido a la EPA, el Instituto Scripps de Oceanografía, una serie de estudios de la Universidad de P.R., la Universidad Wesleyan, el Colegio de William y Mary, asesores privados y otros. La Dra. Barbara Baker y yo en conjunto con muchos amigos y colaboradores del Fideicomiso hemos llevado las bahías bioluminiscentes de P.R. a la atención de muchos investigadores y profesores de instituciones de gran calibre. El Instituto Oceanográfico Woods Hole, la Asociación de Investigación y Conservación de los Océanos, el Proyecto Sea Grant de P.R. y la Universidad de Nebraska han sido notificados sobre nuestra extraordinaria bahía. Científicos e investigadores de estas instituciones han visitado la bahía y han contribuido a la información científica y a las recomendaciones formuladas en los años más recientes. Esto ha contribuido significativamente al desarrollo del turismo científico en Vieques.
• Formamos parte del grupo de trabajo que proporcionó apoyo técnico para la Junta de Calidad Ambiental con el propósito de implementar una ley para el control de la contaminación lumínica. Este proyecto ganó recientemente un premio internacional y Puerto Mosquito fue elegido como localización para el desarrollo de una Reserva de Cielo de Noche. El FCHV fue instrumental en la designación de la Reserva Natural de Puerto Mosquito, bajo la tutela del DRNA, participando en la revisión, análisis y comentario para su plan de gestión.
• A parte y añadiendo a los puntos señalados, siempre trabajando hacia la educación de la comunidad: miles de estudiantes y vecinos y miles de visitantes. Hemos impartido y compartido lo que se ha aprendido sobre la Bahía Bioluminiscente y su fragilidad. Siempre enfatizando el por qué esta bahía es tan importante para Vieques.

En este momento tan crítico y delicado en varios aspectos, rogamos a todos los amigos de la bahía que trabajemos en conjunto, como uno solo. Las ventajas y beneficios han de ser para todos: agencias, operadores turísticos, ciudadanos preocupados, pescadores, organizaciones de la comunidad y el FCHV. Asegurarnos que juntos y unidos haremos lo que sea necesario para salvaguardar esta única maravilla. Podemos lograr este propósito con mayor facilidad y mejores resultados si lo hacemos juntos.

Para que el FCHV pueda continuar con todos nuestros esfuerzos y proyectos neceistamos dos cosas, cada una muy importante: voluntarios y donaciones financieras. En calidad de voluntarios necesitamos: aquellos que aman la ciencia y quieran ayudar en el área de laboratorio y campo; para ayudar en las operaciones del día a día en el Fideicomiso apoyando al personal que está ejerciendo un gran y extra esfuerzo particularmente en estos momentos bregando con los acontecimientos recientes y lo que estos han conllevado. La colaboración económica es necesaria para contratar a consultores científicos, establecer nuevos estudios y compra de equipos de prueba. Si nos proponemos como comunidad logren el objetivo de conservar la bahía, tendrá que estar sustentado con los mejores conocimientos científicos que se puedan producir. Cada contribución ayuda a que esto suceda. Anticipamos su contribución y apoyo según sus posibilidades.

Por favor se puede poner en contacto conmigo para informarse de las maneras en que puede ayudar en esta labor crucial y parte esencial de la misión del Fideicomiso de Conservación e Historia de Vieques.

Mark Martin Bras

June 9th – Bioluminescent Bay Report – Mark Martin

Greetings to all the friends of the bay
Over the last several weeks, there have been some very interesting and important developments surrounding the current situation in the bioluminescent bay. We’d like to take this opportunity to report to our members, and to all those concerned about the future of Puerto Mosquito, as to the recent events in the Bay, what the Vieques Conservation and Historic Trust has been doing, and to take a look ahead to the important activities that will be happening in the coming weeks and months. In addition to this article, we held a special forum about the bay on May 31.
The VCHT has, since its beginning, been focused on understanding and conserving the natural balance that makes Puerto Mosquito one of the finest examples of bioluminescence in the world. In recent months, we have been working with scientists and the regulatory authorities to determine why there has been a decline in bioluminescence. This hard work of patiently collecting and analyzing data continues and, although the bioluminescence appears to be improving, it still shows some periods of instability. We must wait for the results of additional testing to know if this trend will continue or whether the Bay will return to “normal.”
Recently, a group of local citizens has put up barriers to close the roads to the bay as a protest. They have different claims and have presented their arguments in a series of meetings and communications. The Commonwealth’s Department of Natural Resources visited Vieques and participated in some meetings which we attended. We met with DNER’s Manager of the Reserve, Edgardo Belardo, and accompanied him and representatives of the agency on a nighttime tour of Puerto Mosquito. Public discussions have been conducted in different forums, including on WVQR, RadioVieques, which broadcast a program that included the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources of Puerto Rico, Carmen Guerrero, members of the group that protested the bay, representatives from the tour operators who work in the bay, and the VCHT. There has also been a series of meetings and discussions regarding the options available to address the situation.
As a result of this consultation, the DNER of PR, having legal jurisdiction over the bay, has decided to declare a moratorium of use in Puerto Mosquito effective Monday, May 5, 2014. This moratorium will regulate the use of the bay for a period of two months. As a result, the Bay will be closed during the day and its use by tour operators or the public will be allowed only from 6:00 pm to 12:00 am, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Use of the Bay will not be allowed except in these approved times. The order also specifies that the owners of motorized and non-motorized vessels should remove them from the bay. It also prohibits the use of gas or diesel engine vessels for the duration of this order. In addition, there are a series of items in the moratorium order regarding the operations of the tours and the use of the bay.
During the 2-month moratorium the VCHT, USGS, Environmental Quality Board (PREQB) and the University of Puerto Rico will conduct a series of studies and samplings to gather data to determine the conditions of the bay and provide information regarding the low bioluminescence period. The VCHT has also recommended a series of long term studies. We will continue to play a role in the monitoring of the health of the bay and promoting a better understanding of the dynamics of how it works.
We have been on top of this situation almost before it happened. As you may remember, the last article we wrote for Vieques Events spoke of the darkening bioluminescent bay in Fajardo and the necessity of implementing conservation strategies to ensure the safeguarding of the bay. The article explained the findings in Fajardo and presented a “what if” scenario. It spoke of the need for implementing capacity analysis, scientific constant monitoring that includes dinoflagellate counts, supervision, education, light pollution control, and the control of the land use around the Bay. These are all conservation strategies and recommendations we have gathered over the years: everything the Trust has been striving for since its beginnings. These recommendations have been made not only by the VCHT and its members, but also by our students, scientific advisors, community members who participated in the bioluminescence symposium and many other educational activities we have hosted over the decades. Last year our Manta students presented a document to the Secretary of DNER. That report also recommended a series of actions for the bay.
In the past year we have received approval to implement some of the projects we have been recommending for so long. Some of them have been funded. Others need contributions or outside funding in order to go forward.
Among them:
• ≈€€The sediment control project for the road that reaches the Bay through Sun Bay. DNER was able to secure the needed matching funds and an agreement has already been signed with them; work is expected to begin this month. This improvement should be ready by fall.
• ≈€€The installation of a permanent real-time monitoring station for water quality parameters, tides, chlorophyll, and meteorological data. This station will be located near the middle of the bay and will transmit via satellite. Funding has been approved and we are currently waiting for the final permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
• ≈€€The beginning of a short term dinoflagellate count study to have some information regarding what the dinoflagellate counts were on some sample days over the last few months. We have delivered water samples to the UPR in Humacao.
• ≈€€We are continuing our analysis of the atmospheric conditions and preparing a report that will accompany the dinoflagellate counts and the results of the other studies.
• ≈€€We agreed to assist the PREQB and the USGS in the field research aspect of their studies regarding nutrients, water quality profiling of the bay and productivity studies.
• ≈€€We installed a water level fluctuation ruler in the bay to help determine water level variations.
• ≈€€We have requested the assistance of some of our advisors from our research committee. Dr. Juan Gonzalez Lagoa, Dr. John Wise, Dr. Miguel Sastre, Dr. Marc Albrecht and several other researchers have offered to help as much as possible in the process.
• ≈€€We are putting together an informational workshop regarding the bay.It will include studies and findings that have been done throughout the years, and the current situation.
• ≈€€We have inquired regarding the price of renting or purchasing a bathyphotometer to study the bioluminescence in a fast method.
• ≈€€We have requested quotes to acquire a microscope and establish cell counts from the VCHT Langhorne lab and eventually the Barbosa research lab.
• ≈€€We are organizing a cleanup as part of the improvements to be done during the moratorium issued by the DNER.
• ≈€€We have met with the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust to try to take this opportunity to standardize management practices that have been recommended for all the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico.
The VCHT has either sponsored or participated in dozens of studies related to the bay, from local students, undergraduate and doctoral theses, new technology pilot studies, and profiles of different analysis of the bay. These include the EPA, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, a series of studies from the University of Puerto Rico, Wesleyan University, the College of William and Mary, and private consultants and others.

Dr. Barbara Baker and myself, along with many other friends of the Trust, have brought the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico to the attention of many researchers and professors from places like Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Ocean Research and Conservation Association, PR Sea Grant Project, and the University of Nebraska. These scientists and many others have come down to the bay and contributed to the scientific information and recommendations that we have made over the years. This has contributed significantly to the development of scientific tourism on Vieques.
Finally, we were a part of the task force that provides technical support for the PREQB division tasked with implementing a law for the control of light pollution. This action recently won an international award and Puerto Mosquito was chosen as a site for the development of a Night Sky Reserve. The Trust was also instrumental in the designation of the DNER Nature Reserve for the bay and participated in reviewing and commenting on its management plan.
In addition to all of this, we have worked constantly to educate the community – thousands of students and neighbors and tens of thousands visitors – to share what we have learned about the bioluminescent bay and its fragility and why it is so important to Vieques.
Now, to go forward we need two things; we need volunteers and we need money. We need students and people who love science to help in the laboratory area. We need volunteers to help with the normal operations of the Trust, to support the staff that is so pressed for time in dealing with these situations. And, we need additional money. We need money to hire scientific consultants, to commission further studies, and to purchase testing equipment. If the community is to achieve the goal of conserving the bay, it will have to be based on the best science that we can produce. Your contributions can help that to happen. Please make a contribution of your time or your money, or both.

At this critical time we ask the friends of the bay to work as one. The opportunity is here for all of us – agencies, tour operators, concerned citizens, the VCHT and other community organizations, to assure that together, we do what is necessary to safeguard the future of this precious place.

Please contact me to find out about ways you can help in this important work at the VCHT.
Mark Martin Bras

Foro 31 Mayo, 2014 Presentación de Jorge Fernández Porto, Biólogo – “Marco Legal que Rige en la Bahía Bioluminiscente de Vieques”

Marco Legal que Rige en la Bahía Bioluminiscente de Vieques Jorge Fernández Porto, Biólogo
Asesor del Presidente del Senado de Puerto Rico
A partir del 1978, luego de la adopción del Programa de Manejo de la Zona Costanera en Puerto Rico, las bahías bioluminiscentes de Puerto Mosquito, Puerto Ferro y Tapón en Vieques fueron designadas como Áreas de Planificación Especial (APE) (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1978). Estas áreas son seleccionadas según los siguientes criterios y categorías:
Áreas de recursos costaneros significativos que están afectados por impactos acumulativos y secundarios.
Áreas donde una variedad de agencias locales, estatales y federales coordinan y cooperan en el desarrollo de la costa,
Alto valor arqueológico, cultural y recreativo.
Intensidad en las presiones del desarrollo.
Sitios de valor geográfico únicos amenazados por los planes del desarrollo. Desarrollos con necesidad de acceso directo a la costa.
En virtud de la integridad ecológica de la Bahía Puerto Mosquito, ésta fue designada en 1980 un Hito Natural Nacional (“National Natural Landmark”) por el Servicio de Parques Nacionales, Departamento del Interior. Según las disposiciones del Programa de Hitos Naturales Nacionales, esta designación se confiere con el fin de preservar los mejores remanentes de diversidad natural y formaciones geológicas. Dicho programa, establecido en el 1962 por el Secretario del Interior, postula que la preservación de la diversidad natural es de importancia científica, económica, educativa, recreativa y de esparcimiento espiritual.
Sostiene además, que las áreas naturales están ligadas al funcionamiento de la biosfera, de la cual depende la sobrevivencia del ser humano (National Park Service, 1993)
Por recomendación del Departamento de Recursos Naturales y el Programa de Manejo de la Zona Costanera de Puerto Rico (PMZCPR), la Junta de Planificación (JP) designa el área de la bahía bioluminiscente de Vieques como una Reserva Natural en el año 1989. Esta designación incluye los terrenos que rodean a la Bahía Puerto Mosquito, a la bahía misma, al Cayo de Tierra,
y al Cayo Real, para abarcar un área aproximada de 1,165.03 acres (1,201.06 cuerdas). También incluye nueve (9) millas naúticas desde la costa en el Mar Caribe. La designación de una reserva natural tiene como propósito la protección de importantes recursos naturales de gran valor ecológico que están sujetos a serios conflictos de uso presente y potencial. Por lo tanto, estas áreas deben ser preservadas y conservadas sustancialmente en su estado natural; y en aquellos casos donde sea posible, serán restauradas a su condición natural original (DRN, 1988)
La Reserva Natural Bahía Bioluminiscente de Vieques forma parte de las veintiséis (26) áreas designadas por la Junta de Planificación (JP) como Reservas Naturales, según lo dispone el Programa de Manejo de la Zona Costanera de Puerto Rico (PMZCPR). Su belleza paisajista, localización geográfica, geomorfología, las diferentes especies de flora y fauna y su importancia científica hacen de este sistema uno de los más valiosos con que cuenta Puerto Rico (Fuentes y Rivera, 1999).
La Reserva Natural Bahía Bioluminiscente de Vieques está bajo la protección de varios estatutos y reglamentos federales y del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico
DEPARTAMENTO DE RECURSOS NATURALES Y AMBIENTALES
A. #LEY ORGÁNICA DEL DEPARTAMENTO DE RECURSOS NATURALES (DRN).
B. LEY NÚMERO 150 DEL 4 DE AGOSTO DE 1988, PARA CREAR UN PROGRAMA DE
PATRIMONIO NATURAL EN EL DEPARTAMENTO DE RECURSOS NATURALES.
C. LEY NÚMERO 430 DEL 21 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2000, CONOCIDA COMO LEY DE
NAVEGACIÓN Y SEGURIDAD ACUÁTICA DE PUERTO RICO.
D. LEY NO. 132 DEL 25 DE JUNIO DE 1976, CONOCIDA COMO LA LEY DE ARENA, GRAVA Y
PIEDRA,
E. LEY NO. 241-1999: NUEVA LEY DE VIDA SILVESTRE DEL ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE
PUERTO RICO,
F. LEY NÚM. 136, LEY DE AGUAS, APROBADA EL 3 DE JUNIO DE 1976,
G. LEY NÚM. 147-1999 PARA LA PROTECCIÓN, CONSERVACIÓN Y MANEJO DE LOS
ARRECIFES DE CORAL EN PUERTO RICO,.
H. LEY NÚM. 314 PARA DECLARAR POLÍTICA PÚBLICA SOBRE LOS HUMEDALES EN
PUERTO RICO, APROBADA EL 24 DE DICIEMBRE DE 1998.
I. LEY NÚM. 48 DE 1986 PARA LA INSCRIPCIÓN DE EMBARCACIONES DE MOTOR Y
REGLAS GENERALES DE SEGURIDAD.
J. LEY NÚM. 1 DE 1977 QUE CREA AL CUERPO DE VIGILANTES.
K. REGLAMENTO PARA EL APROVECHAMIENTO, VIGILANCIA, CONSERVACIÓN Y
ADMINISTRACIÓN DE LAS AGUAS TERRITORIALES, LOS TERRENOS SUMERGIDOS
BAJO ÉSTAS Y LA ZONA MARÍTIMO TERRESTRE (DRN, 1972, SEGÚN
ENMENDADA).
L. REGLAMENTO NO. 6766 PARA REGIR EL MANEJO DE LAS ESPECIES VULNERABLES Y EN
PELIGRO DE EXTINCIÓN EN EL ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO,
APROBADA EL 12 DE MARZO DE 2004.
M. REGLAMENTO NO. 6765 PARA REGIR LA CONSERVACIÓN Y EL MANEJO DE LA FAUNA
SILVESTRE, LAS ESPECIES EXÓTICAS Y LA CAZA EN EL ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE
PUERTO RICO, APROBADA EL 12 DE MARZO DE 2004.
N. REGLAMENTO PARA CONTROLAR LA EXTRACCIÓN, POSESIÓN, TRANSPORTACIÓN Y
VENTA DE RECURSOS CORALINOS EN PUERTO RICO
JUNTA DE PLANIFICACIÓN
O. REGLAMENTO NÚM. 17 DE ZONIFICACIÓN DE LA ZONA COSTANERA Y ACCESOS A LAS PLAYAS Y COSTAS DE PUERTO RICO, APROBADO EL 31 DE MARZO DE 1983.
P. REGLAMENTO NÚM. 13, REGLAMENTO SOBRE ZONAS SUSCEPTIBLES A INUNDACIONES (SEGUNDA REVISIÓN), APROBADO EL 6 DE MARZO DE 1987.
JUNTA DE CALIDAD AMBIENTAL
Q. LEY NÚM. 9 DE 1970: LEY DE POLÍTICA PÚBLICA AMBIENTAL, SEGÚN ENMENDADA. R. REGLAMENTO DE ESTÁNDARES DE CALIDAD DE AGUA
AUTORIDAD DE PUERTOS
S. LEY DE PUERTOS PARA LA ISLA DE PUERTO RICO, APROBADA EN 1886 (VIGENTE).
ESTATUTOS DEL GOBIERNO FEDERAL
T. LEY NÚM. 93-205, LEY DE ESPECIES EN PELIGRO DE EXTINCIÓN, APROBADA EN 1973.
U. “FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION, ACT OF 1980-FINAL PL 96-366, SEPTEMBER 20, 1980”.
V. SECCIÓN 404, LEY PÚBLICA FEDERAL 92-500, SEGÚN ENMENDADA POR LA LEY DE AGUAS LIMPIAS DE 1977

Forum May 31, 2014 Presentation by Colleen McNamara….VCHT – Puerto Mosquito: the history

The VCHT was co founded in 1984 by Slim Young and Betty Langhorne, two North Americans with an abiding love for Vieques. Alison Flemer, Bill and Marian Littleford, Ray McNamara and Dr. Barbara Bernache-Baker were early and steadfast supporters.
The VCHT was registered as a not for profit corporation by the Puerto Rico State Department in 1985 and was given 501c3 status by the IRS in 1987.
The Trust has been an active advocate to prevent light pollution, agricultural runoff and indiscriminate development from impacting the Bay and the delicate eco-system that supports it.
The mission of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust is to foster, study, educate, protect and conserve the environmental, archaeological and cultural resources of Vieques, Puerto Rico. One of the primary missions is to preserve and study the bioluminescent bays found on the island.
VCHT is committed to the sustainability of all aspects of Vieques — its people, and the physical and cultural environment —by contributing to improving the education, economic and social well being of the island.

Our first President, Myrna Pagan, was elected in 1985. Under Myrna’s direction the VCHT forged an important link to the Vieques community that remains today.
In 1986, when the VCHT was first formed, Bahia Mosquito or Caño Hondo as it is known to the fishermen here, was used primarily as a safe haven for fishing boats in storms. The body of work of scientific knowledge about our bioluminescent bay was very limited. No long-term monitoring or data collection had ever taken place. There were no tour companies like we have today. If you wanted to see the bay glow, you went out with a fisherman. There were no protections in place, no official designations by any entities to preserve and protect this unique natural resource.
The founding members of the VCHT had a strong interest in preserving the bioluminescent bays found on the island. As such, in March 1986, VCHT President Myrna Pagan, presented a proposal to the Coastal Zone Management Program of the PR Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER/DRNA) for the development of a Management Plan for the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay Natural Reserve
Due to Myrna’s dedicated work and the collaborative efforts of the VCHT with the municipality of Vieques and the government of Puerto Rico, the area around Puerto Mosquito, including Sun Bay, Cayo de Tierra and Cayo de Afuera and the surrounding waters, were declared a Puerto Rico Patrimonial Natural Reserve on June 1st, 1989

Dr. Barbara Bernache-Baker was one of the first volunteers to work with the newly formed VCHT. An accomplished woman with a unique combination of talents, Barbarita is a scientist, an educator, a mother and an activist — and a long time Vieques resident. Dr Bernache Baker has made a life-long commitment to the study and preservation of Puerto Mosquito.

For over 30 years now, Barbara has been out regularly on a variety of boats and kayaks doggedly taking samples to bring back to study in her home or later to the lab at the Trust. She has amassed a huge database of information, establishing a baseline of data on the waters of Puerto Mosquito for current and future generations.

Dr Bernache Baker has written and published two monographs about the Bay and the Mangrove forests surrounding the Bay, both of which are still in print.

Over the years because of Barbara’s enthusiasm, her outgoing nature and persistence, innumerable scientists from around the world have come to Vieques to study the Bay. And as a result, a number of PhD theses on Puerto Mosquito have been published.

Barbara continues to be a driving force for scientific research and at the age of 85 is still going out with Mark to the bay, collecting samples and updating databases.

Education is an important component of the VCHT programming and our educational programs have grown extensively in the 20 years that I have been working with the Trust.

When I joined the Trust in 1995, Barbarita was already working with local science teachers, taking Viequense students out to sample the waters of the bioluminescent bay.

Student participation in understanding the science of the Bioluminescent bay is a regular part of our work. Mrs Gilda Pimentel, o Miss Porfil, a not so retired teacher and VCHT volunteer, will be sharing more with you about our educational programs here in just a few minutes.

My first trip to the bay was in the summer of 1991. Back then I knew it as the Phosphorescent bay, not the Bioluminescent bay. It was just myself and a friend on a dark night, accompanied by a fisherman out on his little motorboat. It was a life changing experience and I have returned dozens of times in the last 23 years so I could glow like tinkerbell. But I came back again and again, not just to glow like a fairy princess, but to gain more knowledge and appreciation of this unique and magical place.

One of my most memorable trips was in 1996 with Carlos “Prieto” Ventura.

It was a beautiful, dark and starry night. At that time, the bay was glowing brilliantly, but we were growing more and more worried about it’s future. The Sports Complex and the infamous Navy Perimeter Road Project were underway and the uncontrolled erosion and sedimentation from the sites and the lack of any lighting controls in an area that had had been designated as a Patrimonial Natural Reserve were a real threat.

That night Prieto spoke eloquently and honestly about Caño Hondo and his worries about over use, exploitation, light pollution and the potentially devastating changes brought on by erosion and sedimentation. Worries that to this day we have been fighting to address.

Working together with every possible resource available to us, we have made great strides towards the protection of the bay, but there is so much more work to be done.

And it has never been easy, but we are committed and determined.

Despite countless numbers of meetings…. letters and resolve on the part of the VCHT and it’s supporters, it took over 20 years since it’s designation as a Patrimonial Natural Reserve, for the Government of Puerto Rico and it’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to finalize a management plan for the bioluminescent bay.

One of the issues that has always been on the table and that has yet to be addressed is the carrying capacity of the bay.

While recognizing the large socio economic impact that Bahia Mosquito has on our community, it has always been a concern that by opening it up and sharing it’s magic, that we might be putting the Bay in jeopardy.

On October 10th and 11th, 2009, the VCHT organized and hosted the first Symposium on Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico. This symposium was an enormous undertaking for the Trust — we had never done anything on this scale before. But we took on the challenge because we knew that we are at a crossroads in Vieques. There was and is an urgent need to make choices about how we will use our precious natural resources before it is too late. In order to make those choices intelligently, we believed it essential to have a better understanding of exactly what it means to have the last remaining pristine bioluminescent bay in the world.

There were so many questions:
What is the science of bioluminescence? Why have other bioluminescent bays lost their brilliance? How does Puerto Mosquito add to the lives of the citizens of this island? What threats are there to the Bay at this time? Can we continue to develop the areas near the bay without causing irreparable harm to the Bay? Is it important to protect it for the future? Why? What can we tell our children about the natural world? What responsibilities do we have to ensure it continues to exist? How can we work together to ensure we can continue to enjoy its beauty while preserving it for our children and their children?

We brought together the best experts in bioluminescence from Puerto Rico and the United States, as well as persons who have the ability to take action to protect the bay and residents of this island who have an important stake in its well being.
Among the speakers were the principal scientific experts on bioluminescent organisms, Dr Juan González Lagoa, Dr Edie Widder, and Dr Michael Latz as well as Dr Miguel Sastre an expert on physical oceanography, Dr Fernando Gilbes, geology professor and founder of the Geological and Environmental Remote Sensing Laboratory; architect Fernando Abruña, Latin America’s foremost expert on sustainable construction and light pollution; two natural resource managers who work on reserves with bioluminescent bodies of water, one of which is Puerto Mosquito, and Sr. Carmelo Rosa, a local fisherman along with our own Mark Martin.

Approximately 250 people attended the symposium, university professors and students, high school teachers and students, tour guides, local residents and community organizations – the majority of them from Puerto Rico and Vieques.

The Planning and Development Committee of the Senate of Puerto Rico used our symposium as a hearing for Joint Resolution 622, which called for the creation of a task force to analyze land use and propose special zoning considerations for the lands surrounding Puerto Mosquito, with special emphasis on those lands that can be seen from the bay at night. So we had in attendance the Puerto Rico Secretary of State, the President of the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Secretary; Sea Grant, US Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, EPA representatives.

The symposium participants, local residents, community organizations, Puerto Rican legislators, the Municipal authorities, scientists, all agreed that the US Government should petition that this natural wonder be declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The impact the symposium had was momentous.
With an endless amount of help and guidance from the VCHT, the management plan for the Bay was finally formalized by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in 2010.
In August of 2010, DNER signed a collaboration agreement with the VCHT to develop an information campaign about the Bay and it’s unique ecosystem. The VCHT wrote and produced 10,000 educational flyers that we have distributed to visitors and residents of Vieques.

Puerto Rico Dark Skies Law – in 2010 VCHT helped to write this legislation and testified in the Public Hearings for the proposed amendment to the Puerto Rico dark skies law to include public as well as private lights.

VCHT/Scripps Monitoring Pilot Project – Under the direction of Dr. Michael Latz of the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and with Mark Martin as the Principal Field Investigator, this research/monitoring project ran from September 2010 through February 2011 and provided critical scientific information and analysis about the dinoflagellate population in Puerto Mosquito.

In 2011, the EPA awarded the Puerto Mosquito Conservation Grant to the VCHT. It consisted of two components:

Component 1
• Real-time water quality sampling in Puerto Mosquito combined with weather data for a full year.
• Implementation of erosion and sedimentation control measures in Puerto Mosquito road as a pilot project and analyzing the water quality data to measure effectiveness
• Training Vieques construction industry in management of unpaved roads for erosion and sedimentation control
Component 2
• Pilot course for Puerto Mosquito tour guide certification
• Training on bioluminescent bay, conservation and sustainable use of this resource for municipality, DNER personnel, and hospitality industry.

This ongoing project requires a great deal of interagency coordination – including a cooperative agreement with USGS for equipment, technical support, training and data analysis; working with EQB and DNER to match funds/expertise, permitting, etc.

Regarding the community education component, we have hosted several site visits and hosted meetings with guides and operators at the Trust.

As for the water quality-monitoring component, the original contract with USGS expired, but DNER Secretary Carmen Guerrero, Laura Vélez, President of the Environmental Quality Board and William R. Rodríguez, USGS – all committed to finding funds for continuing the project. The USGS head committed to allowing the equipment to remain in the bay and to keep the project running until funds were secured so there were no gaps in monitoring coverage.

On February 18th of this year, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the USGS, DNER, EQB and VCHT for the installation of a real-time water quality and monitoring station in Puerto Mosquito. This station will be the first ever to be installed in any coastal lagoon in Puerto Rico and the first ever in any bioluminescent body of water in the world.

Mark has turned water quality monitoring into an educational activity: students, MANTA, universities, visiting high schools, visiting colleges, tourists, guides and operators … so successfully that USGS has trained him to do water monitoring and he is collaborating with them in monitoring of wells in Vieques.

In October 2013 Dr. Fernando Abruña conducted a workshop on green infrastructure for the management of unpaved roads. Turnout was excellent, we had members of the local community, municipal representatives, including the Mayor and representatives from local government and federal agencies.

The road component of the project is still not completed. Needed participation from DNER was interrupted prior to the 2012 elections. The current DNER Secretary Carmen Guerrero and her staff have made the commitment to finalizing the project with participation of National Guard engineers. EPA has just authorized a term extension for one more year so the project may be completed.

In February of this year, VCHT organized and hosted a bilingual forum on light pollution.

The VCHT has grown considerably from its humble beginnings 30 years ago, but our focus and our mission are more defined than ever.

The Trust has always supported programs for young people, including workshops on pottery and reading at the Trust and in the schools, sponsorship for the 4-H summer camp, and the American Civics program. However, in early 2000, the Trust decided to make it a priority to focus on education, especially enhanced educational support for Viequense children.
Beginning with the development of the Marine Life Exhibit in 2000, the scholarship program in 2005, and the Manta summer program in 2006, and with an emphasis on environmental education for school aged children the Trust has been able to reach every school child in Vieques at least once a year.

We are fortunate to have a highly talented and motivated staff of four full time employees. Lirio, Mark, Xaimara and Eliu are the ones that do all of the heavy lifting. They are always willing to go above and beyond because they care deeply about Vieques. Since the Bay went dark, Mark and Lirio have barely slept.

The modest salaries for this amazing staff are made possible mostly through the generous donations of our membership. We have a membership of over 400 and we rely heavily on our members…. volunteers like Barbarita, Jorge, Gilda and myself to help forward our objectives.

We have learned that it is only by working together, by forming partnerships with other individuals… entities and agencies, that we can we ever hope to make a difference.

For anyone who is interested, data downloading and equipment maintenance is a constant activity that requires the participation of at least two people. Mark is always looking for people to help.

We have a sign up sheet for any of you who would like to be an active part of the solution.

Bioluminescent Bay Report – Mark Martin Bras

Report from Mark Martin on what is going on in the Bay. May 6 2014

As you may have heard the bioluminescent bay has displayed an apparent decrease in the concentration of bioluminescent dinoflagellates for a period of more than two months.
We were the first to react to the situation by reporting it to the Department of Natural Resources (DNER) and to our scientific advisors from our research committee that included scientists from local and stateside universities and institutes. We compiled information from the existing water quality monitoring project that we have been conducting in the bay for the last few years, along with some weather, tides and other relevant data. We also began sampling at night to establish some profiles on the bay and collect water samples to be analyzed by the University of Puerto Rico for bioluminescent dinoflagellates and other organisms.
Their initial analysis confirms a significant decrease in the population of P. bahamense on the samples they have been able to process so far. In collaboration with the DNER we have brought together a team of advisors and agencies that have been tasked with conducting further analysis of the existing data and identifying the resources to conduct studies that we have deemed necessary to determine some of the possible causes for the current situation. In addition and in order to have conclusive scientific evidence regarding the current situation of the bay and to have an in depth analysis of the state of the bay we require broader studies with larger periods of time to reach conclusions.
As a long-term strategy we are actively establishing collaborations to provide additional support to our existing projects towards the research applications and improvement initiatives that we have put in place to ensure the sustainability of the bay. These include
• The approved permanent monitoring station with real time satellite transmission with water quality parameters, chlorophyll, tide station and other research applications which will be installed this year.
• The establishment of a dinoflagellate count project with the collaboration of the University of Puerto Rico.
• The road improvement and sediment control project.
• The guide and operator training course.
• The pursuit of the dark sky reserve designation and other light pollution regulations and adjustments.
• We have also participated in the selection of Puerto Mosquito as part of the coastal bodies of water to be studied by the Environmental Quality Board and the USGS as part of their joint program.
We are also consistently meeting and issuing recommendations made by the scientific advisors of the VCHT to the collaborating scientists and agencies.
In recent weeks we seem to have begun to see a very slight increase in the visual appreciation of the bioluminescence but we are in the process of determining actual dinoflagellate counts and monitoring it to determine if It displays a significant trend.

Mark Martin Bras