NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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Coral Reef Protection in Puerto Rico

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By guest blogger, Wessley Merten, Surfrider Foundation’s Rincón chapter

Luis Colon (Atlantis Diving Contractors) cuts a portion of the large boat hull. The lower image shows the boat hull in pieces at the drop spot in a sandy area. The pieces were brought onto the boat using lift bags as some weighed as much as 500 lbs. (Courtesy of S. McIntyre; modified by W. Merten)

Surfrider Foundation’s Rincón chapter in collaboration with the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the NOAA Restoration Center, Puerto Rico’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, and other local partners have begun work on the project titled “Coral Reef Protection through Marine Debris Removal in two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); Arrecifes de Tourmaline and Reserva Marina Tres Palmas.”

Phase I of the project is nearly complete. Over the past month, nearly 50 individuals and a handful of the island’s businesses have contributed to help remove nearly 6,000 lbs. of boat debris off Cayo Ron reef where there is large population of corals including Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis along with other corals. The debris, remnants of a shipwreck from 1996, was covering roughly 83 m2 of substrate scattered across 3.2 acres of coral reef habitat. A hydraulic underwater chainsaw was used to cut the boat hull and rudder into more manageable pieces to be taken back to land and deposited in a proper landfill. Removal of this debris will prevent any additional harm to the surrounding reef during storm events. Prior to removing the debris, 60 corals were carefully transplanted from the boat hull onto the adjacent reef.

Phase II of the project includes initiating the outreach and education component while transitioning to field work at the project’s second focus site, Reserva Marina Tres Palmas in Rincón. New recycling bins have arrived that will be donated to participating schools to help start and/or enhance their current recycling programs and coordination with the municipalities for pickup have been on-going. As for field work, an upcoming nearshore survey and cleanup in the marine reserve will be conducted with the help of several schools and volunteers from the community. This event will kick-off Phase II of the project removing marine debris from Reserva Marina Tres Palmas in Rincón during the 2011/2012 season.

For more information please contact, Wessley Merten of Surfrider Foundation’s Rincón chapter at wessley.merten@upr.edu or (787) 436-8300 or Sean Griffin of the NOAA Restoration Center at Sean.Griffin@noaa.gov or (787) 667-7750.

 
Wessley Merten swimming subsurface with a portion of the bow, guiding it
to the designated drop area. (Courtesy: S. McIntyre)

 
Location of debris that was removed from Cayo Ron and coral transplants
that will be monitored. (Figure: W. Merten and H. Ruiz; images from ArcGIS)

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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