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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate to pass bill creating natural reserve in Vieques

The Ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) in Vieques Natural Reserve Park is estimated to be between 375 and 400 years old.

By The Star Staff

The island Senate is slated to pass legislation today to create La Ceiba de Vieques Natural Reserve Park.

The measure, Senate Bill 1366, is authored by Carolina District Sen. Marissa “Marissita” Jiménez Santoni.

“La Ceiba Community Project and the La Ceiba Park in Vieques have become one of the most important and visited attractions in Vieques, contributing an important economic impact to that island municipality,” the senator said. “With this measure, we protect the environment, encourage the growth of marine species, and promote tourism, all in an ecosystem of support and conservation.”

The Parque de la Ceiba, a part of La Ceiba de Vieques Natural Reserve Park, offers open spaces dedicated to the enjoyment of residents, visitors, tourists and the general public. It creates a functional oasis in the area’s natural state in the offshore island municipality. The park is home to several unique features, including beaches, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, wetlands, mangroves, and habitat and feeding grounds for various species, some of which are in danger of extinction.

Federal agencies such as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have recognized the area as an essential natural resource. The USFWS has included it on its high natural value conservation map.

“The Mayor of Vieques, José ‘Junito’ Corcino, with whom we are consulting all the details of this reserve, supports the initiative, which will be of great benefit to the municipality’s fishing activity since many marine species have suffered dramatic declines in their numbers due to unregulated fishing decades ago,” Jiménez Santoni said. “The Vieques fishermen are in favor of the initiative, and with them, we will continue the dialogue because when the areas of these species are recovered, we can resume fishing.”

The park also boasts archaeological sites, and its main attraction is the centenary Ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra), whose age is estimated between 375 and 400 years. The specimen was included in the list of the most important and longest-lived Ceibas in Puerto Rico.

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