Senator proposes funds for coral reefs

By John McPhaul

In order to allocate $20,000 to the Marine Environment Society from the Emergency Fund to address the condition of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) in Puerto Rico’s coral reefs, at-large Sen. William Villafañe Ramos filed Senate Joint Resolution 72 on Sunday.

SCTLD is a disease that is affecting coral reefs, particularly in the municipalities of Culebra and Vega Baja, causing the death of coral and the subsequent loss of reefs.

The condition is causing unprecedented devastation, particularly in the waters off Puerto Rico’s eastern shore, Villafañe Ramos said in a written statement.

“Coral reefs are essential for sustaining marine life and mitigating coastal erosion,” the senator said. “We recognize the importance of addressing this environmental catastrophe and we believe that it is imperative to take affirmative action in the face of the existence of this progressive disease that affects and seriously endangers the life and existence of our corals.”

Villafañe Ramos added that “with this Resolution we seek to allocate funds to the non-profit organization Sociedad Ambiente Marino Inc. for the purchase and application of amoxicillin paste treatment to diseased corals.”

“The success of this project will open a door to the regeneration of corals and obtaining its benefits,” he said.

Villafañe Ramos noted that the Marine Environment Society Inc. is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to guide, educate and put forth efforts in marine protection and conservation.

The organization provides education through conferences, forums and symposia aimed at the conservation of marine resources in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

In turn, it dedicates efforts to coastal cleanup, and monitoring fish and coral populations for the restoration of their habitat and the establishment of marine reserves.

The Marine Environment Society Inc. is the first organization in the United States and its territories to have a project approved under the Coral Reef Conservation Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

However, despite having authorization from NOAA and having an official permit from the island Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the organization has not been able to achieve federal multi-agency authorization to use federal funds approved for the SCTLD project.

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