Sunday, September 7, 2008

Coral Reef Protection through Marine Debris Removal at Reserva Marina Tres Palmas

The New Project

(en español)

In an effort to protect the beautiful and fragile reefs of Rincón, Puerto Rico, the Surfrider Foundation has embarked on a second community outreach and coral reef restoration project entitled Coral Reef Protection through Marine Debris Removal in Reserva Marina Tres Palmas. Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is an endangered shallow water coral found throughout the Caribbean Sea that plays a crucial role in providing essential habitat and shelter for a rich diversity of marine life and also provides protection from beach erosion.

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These corals face numerous threats such as coastal sedimentation and water pollution, habitat loss, and destruction. One of the causes for reef destruction is marine debris. Marine debris, including tires, blocks, ropes, chain, and clothing negatively affect corals by breaking them, suffocating them, and smothering them.

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This project seeks to restore the reef through debris removal to allow these habitats to become healthier. The marine reserve, adjacent areas to the north and south, and a number of creeks will be cleaned during this project.

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There are three main components to this project; fieldwork, outreach through volunteer participation, and an in-school education program. Fieldwork consists of monitoring the area for debris and removing the debris while snorkeling, tow-boarding, and scuba diving. Both tow-boarding and scuba diving will be done from a boat.

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A schedule has been set to go out three times weekly; Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. This schedule is flexible and can accommodate other days if needed. An invitation with the schedule will be sent to prospective volunteers including local fishers, the municipality of Rincón employees, Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios de Litoral (CIEL), DRNA, local volunteers, commonwealth agencies, Sea Grant, and other nontraditional partners. These are groups that the Surfrider Foundation is encouraging to get involved in this project.

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The second component of this project is to promote volunteer participation and increase community outreach.

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The third component is to give presentations to students in local schools to promote coral reef conservation and educate them about the threats that the reefs face. With the help of local students, this project will culminate in an artistically informative book or similar project about coral reefs that will serve as a symbol of their importance and beauty.

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The reason that this project is being conducted is to restore and protect the structure, health, and beauty of coral reefs in Rincon. Funding for this project was made possible through a grant provided by NOAA. This funding is being used to charter the ‘Mi Familia’, which is captained by local commercial fisherman Edwin ‘Pauco’ Font. It also supports my internship to coordinate the project, include volunteer participation, collect data and report on the progress of the project.


Throughout the following months Pauco and I will be conducting the field work with volunteers, teaching them about coral reef conservation and restoration, and reaching out to the community through educational presentations.

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