Marine nature reserve off Vega Baja coast proposed in Senate
By The Star Staff
Independent Sen. José “Chaco” Vargas Vidot filed Senate Bill 1395 on Wednesday to establish the “Los Angeles Nature Reserve Act” to create the Vega Baja and Manatee Underwater Gardens.
The measure, which was drafted with input from the Vegabajeños Group Promoting Sustainable Environmental Development (VIDAS), would create the first natural reserve for reefs on the island’s northern coast, setting a historical precedent for collaborative management between public-community partnerships, nonprofit organizations and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER).
If the measure becomes law, it would empower the DNER to enter into management agreements with those government or “bona-fide” nonprofit organizations committed to the
conservation and development of the nature reserve.
The purpose of such agreements would be to establish both sustainable management and joint custody of the reserve.
The measure also directs the DNER secretary to develop within 150 days from the approval of the law, and in collaboration with government entities and nongovernmental nonprofit organizations, a management plan and compatible regulations for the administration, rehabilitation and conservation of the area.
Within the management plan for the reserve, the DNER would establish the non-harmful human uses or activities compatible with the conservation of the area of interest, as well as the viability of recreational activities such as surfing, snorkeling, kayaking or any other activity compatible with the conservation objectives for the area.
The bill also takes into account the island’s fishing community by ensuring that fishing is protected in the areas of traditional fishing banks that exist to the north of the nursery areas located in Puerto Rico’s territorial waters.
Reef researcher Ricardo Laureano, the spokesperson for the VIDAS Group, reiterated that “this legislation is essential to preserving the future as a society, while at the same time justice is achieved for the fishing boats.”