Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finalization of the Primary Survey and What lies ahead

The Primary Survey

Since hitting the water on June 30th, the initial survey and clean up has amassed 31 days on the water. During that time, the project has surveyed over 210 acres of the reserve and marked and removed 291 debris locations, including the removal of a staggering 250 tires, and over 20 pieces of clothing and other articles wrapped around Elkhorn corals. These statistics do not include a significant amount of clothing pulled off the coral by DRNA's Robert Matos during a site visit at the beginning of the project, and several other pieces removed during reconnaissance after the passage of Hurricane Dean.

Click to enlarge images

Tire located but not removed due to delicate nature of its positioning during a portion of the swim survey.

The final map detailing locations of all encountered debris. Notice the proximity to the shore and public access points as Steps Beach and Calle Surf.

The culminated tire collection at Rincon's Public Works and students from la Escuela Superior Manuel García Pérez de Rincón participating in an education and outreach project.


For accessibility reasons the reserve was worked in three methods; swim surveys near shore, tow surveys in mid-water areas, and SCUBA transects in deeper water. The coverage for these methods:

      • Swimming (red): 17 acres
      • SCUBA(blue): 27 acres
      • Tow (green): 165 acres

Survey work done as part of the project. The red flags represent the four corners of the RM3P.


18 volunteers contributed 28 volunteer days totaling 156 hours of total work. Volunteers were involved in all aspects of the project with activities including:

  • Snorkel transects of shallow water reefs
  • Free-dive towboard surveys
  • Deep water SCUBA transects
  • Boat side photography
  • Debris removal and retrieval

Education and Outreach

Surfrider Field Manager Leon Richter discusses PSA design with Sra. Cardona's Environmental Studies Class.

As part of educational activities, members of the project teamed with a local high school, la Escuela Superior Manuel García Pérez de Rincón. The project challenged Sra. Brenda Cardona’s Environmental Science class to do a Public Service Announcement (PSA) Project dealing with the accumulation of debris and the state of the Rincon shorefront. The students were told of the project and shown a slideshow of the work that was done in the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve. Pauco Font also delivered a spirited address of how their everyday actions affect the health and future of the coastal communities for everyone. The students then were given cameras and took pictures of the accumulated tire piles at the Public Works yard. They voted on the best photos and worked on a message which was turned into posters and distributed throughout the Rincon community. One student prepared a small video highlighting the issue that was immediately posted on the Surfrider website:

The final PSAs are displayed below.

Letters of invitation to participate were also mailed to different offices of the municipality in hopes of fostering a greater investment in coastal well being by the political structure of Rincon. As of this the completion of the primary survey, the invitations had not been accepted, but there is hope of a greater inclusion of municipal volunteers for the spring monitoring aspect of the project. However, plans with the Rincon Sports and Recreation Department were in line to do a presentation of the project and a snorkel tour and beach clean up of the RM3P.

What Lies ahead…

The finalization of initial survey and clean up does not signal the end of project, or the end of debris based threats to the coral resources of the RM3P. Currents and beachgoers will introduce more debris, winter’s waves will uncover more tires, land development with unmitigated grading will introduce sediments and natural processes like hurricanes will continue to threaten the Elkhorn corals found in and around Tres Palmas.

As a continuation of the original project, there will be a monitoring effort in the spring of 2008. This effort will resurvey heavily impacted areas and areas of great debris accumulation to discern the patterns of debris introduction to the reserve and to document the recovery of areas where debris was removed. Hopefully this knowledge will be used to design a future continuation of this year’s project as funding allows.

The continuing health of the Elkhorn and Staghorn reefs of the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve ultimately depends on the residents and visitors of Rincon. If the residents can come together to realize the natural treasure that they have in their backyard, and take pride and ownership of this resource, the future will look a lot brighter. This could be as simple as beachgoers just grabbing a few pieces of trash on their way back to their car, regular scheduled pickups of beachside trashcans, and just having the nerve to tell other beachgoers not to litter. The mindfulness of the community can lead to the continued health of the coastal resources. And this isn’t limited to just what happens directly at the beach or in the water, but extends throughout the entire watershed, from the mountains to the ocean. Our actions and future choices can impact the future health of the coastal ecosystem, both positively and negatively.

For more photos from the project and information please visit:



Public Service Announcements designed as part of an outreach project with Sra. Brenda Cardona’s environmental science class at la Escuela Superior Manuel García Pérez de Rincón.

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