Creation of marine reserve in Vieques discussed
By The Star Staff
Seeking to protect the natural resources of the eastern region of the island, Carolina District Sen. Marissa “Marissita” Jiménez Santoni met over the weekend with Vieques Mayor José “Junito” Corcino Acevedo to discuss the creation of a marine reserve in the offshore island municipality.
“We are in talks with the mayor, as well as with personnel from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DNER) to establish the parameters of a marine/terrestrial reserve on the island municipality of Vieques in order to protect the environment, encourage the growth of marine species and boost tourism in the eastern region of Puerto Rico,” the senator said.
Jiménez encourages the creation of La Ceiba de Vieques Park Nature Reserve. At this time, La Ceiba Community Project and La Ceiba Park in Vieques have become highly popular attractions for tourists visiting Vieques, while making a significant economic impact on the tourism industry.
The park offers open spaces dedicated to the enjoyment of residents, visitors, tourists and the general public, creating a functional natural oasis on Vieques. The park also has several beaches, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, wetlands, mangroves, habitat and is a feeding place for various species, some in danger of extinction.
The area has been recognized as an important natural resource by federal agencies such as the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and has been included in its High Natural Value Conservation Map.
“We thank the Mayor of Vieques, with whom we are consulting on all the details of this reserve,” the New Progressive Party senator said. “During the meeting, they told us that establishing it will be of great benefit to the fishing activity in the municipality since many marine species have suffered dramatic decreases in their numbers due to unregulated fishing decades ago. The fishermen of Vieques are in favor of the initiative and we will continue the dialogue with them.”
There are also several archaeological sites in the park in an area known as the Punta Caballo Archaeological Site, and the ruins of train tracks.
Jiménez and Corcino are working on the delimitation of the reserve, which, in addition to the marine section, will include terrestrial areas.
“For the Municipality of Vieques it is very important to have a marine reserve,” the mayor said. “It is essential for our fishermen because it allows us to conserve a series of species, so that when they reach their adult stage, they can migrate to fishing areas, injecting money into the local economy. In addition, it represents another source of income for the municipality as it is used as a tourist attraction.”
The main attraction of the park is the centennial ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra), which is estimated to be between 375 and 400 years old. The specimen has been included in the list of the most important and long-lived ceibas in Puerto Rico.