Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Project Overview

Survey plan for the RM3P.

Two tires rest together as part of a "tire garden" where up to 20 tires are visible at a time.

(Click to Enlarge Photos)

The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve (RM3P) Debris Survey for Elk-horn Coral Restoration is a project that aims to alleviate some human pressures on Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and the surrounding marine environment. Elkhorn coral, recently listed as a threatened species, is a remarkable branching coral that thrives in the shallow coastal waters and is readily accessible to snorkelers just a few fin strokes off of Steps Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico. Marine debris poses a threat to corals and the living substrate as wave and current action act to force the debris over the fragile bottom breaking the delicate branching corals and scouring the substrate. This project aims to strategically survey for, and then to remove debris to restore the reef areas to a more pristine state.

There are three distinct phases to the project.

  • a large-scale survey to census, document, and remove tires, clothing and other marine debris in the RM3P. Census and removal work are to include extensive manta tows and snorkel surveys
  • establish or resurvey “clean zones” to examine debris accumulation rates and recovery at sites where debris was removed
  • Perform education and outreach work for the schools and various groups and administrations of the community

The need for the project came from the observations of “tire gardens”, areas of high accumulation of tires readily visible to snorkelers in front of Steps Beach. The Surfrider Foundation spearheaded by Rincon chair Leon Richter and Environmental Director Chad Nelson, took action and applied for funding made available by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The awarded grant allowed for the project to take place by donating funds to run the project. This funding went towards the chartering of the Mi Familia captained by local commercial fisherman Edwin “Pauco” Font and the availability of a(n) internship(s) to assist and run the project and its outreach. One intern, Sean Guerin (yours truly), has prior experience in Hawaii as part of NOAA’s Marine Debris program surveying for and removing derelict fishing gear from the Main and Northwest Hawaiian.

The initial survey and clean up is planned to take place from mid-late June until mid-late August. The monitoring and resurveys will be designed and take place following the initial survey. Education and outreach will be developed and provided as the project proceeds. Volunteer opportunities will be available in all three stages of the project. For volunteer inquiries, or further information or questions, feel free to email me at the link provided via this blog.

Elkhorn Coral

Acropora Palmata

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