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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Legislators to propose creation of temporary protected marine areas

Rep. Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez

By The Star Staff

The New Progressive Party (NPP) minority leader in the island House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez, along with Reps. Joel Franqui Atiles and José “Che” Pérez Cordero, seeks to promote the creation of a network of temporarily protected marine areas in certain coastal areas of the island with the aim of safeguarding the environment and encouraging the repopulation of marine species.

The legislators plan to file a resolution to investigate the feasibility of creating a network of temporary protected marine areas, including their demarcation, studies of the need for restoration and an estimated timetable for the rehabilitation of each area. The measure would also establish the agencies to be in charge of the proposed reserves, along with the mayors of the municipalities where they are located, and the development of task forces for determining and maximizing efficiency, among other provisions.

“The concept of temporary marine protected areas is one used in the continental United States with great efficiency because it allows for the restoration of a properly demarcated area for the enjoyment of future generations,” Méndez Nuñez said. “In Puerto Rico, there are many maritime areas that need restoration, particularly in the face of the havoc caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and the tidal surge that impacted the West in 2018. Sectors such as the Luis Peña Channel in Culebra and the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincón are examples of what we are proposing -- a protected area for a period, with conservation metrics and repopulation of marine species that allow us to know the efficiency of the programs implemented for their restoration.”

Franqui Atiles, who represents District 15 Hatillo, Camuy and Quebradillas), added that “the goal of creating a network of temporary marine protected areas is to rehabilitate them, taking advantage of new technology, the enormous wealth of talent that does volunteer work, experts in academia and the central and municipal government, all working together to not only conserve the area, but restore it to optimal levels.”

“These platforms that we are evaluating, in addition to establishing metrics to determine the performance of actions taken, also allow a space for new ideas from many sectors, all united by one purpose: a vibrant and growing flora and fauna,” he said.

Pérez Cordero, an at-large lawmaker, noted that “this is a novel concept where we are going to study the feasibility of creating these marine protected areas temporarily, the time that should be provided for restoration, including the starting point, as well as task forces for each of these reserves.”

“Reefs, as well as the restoration of marine life, including fish, are the goal for these areas,” he added.

Many marine reserves currently exist, including Desecheo Island, Tres Palmas in Rincón, the coral reef in Isla Verdad, the Condado Lagoon, Jobos Bay, and the Luis Peña Channel in Culebra, as well as parts of the Mona and Monito nature reserves.

About 1,600 marine protected areas exist in the United States, of which 223 are classified as marine nature reserves.

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