Puerto Rico

The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions completed a $13.5 million, 10-year partnership to support the effective management and protection of coral reefs. Here’s a peek at how that partnership translated to work on-the-ground and in-the-sea – and what that means for Puerto Rico’s reefs.

Where We Work

Puerto Rico’s coastline is home to more than 1,930 square miles of shallow coral reef ecosystems, including mangrove forests and seagrass beds. These habitats support more than 677 species of fish and 237 species of coral. However, over 93 percent of Puerto Rico’s coral reefs are threatened by sedimentation, algal growth, overfishing, bleaching and climate change.

Our Approach

Coral reef conservation efforts in Puerto Rico build on successes in neighboring Caribbean islands and foster collaboration among stakeholders at the federal, regional, and local levels to ensure ocean habitats are protected for the benefit of people and nature. Effective management of marine and coastal protected areas is achieved through policy analysis and support of cooperative management efforts with local communities and stakeholders. Additionally, science-based decision-making tools, including new technologies to determine sustainable harvest levels, monitor catch sizes, and drive accountability, have been developed to ensure sustainable management of key fisheries.

Our Accomplishments

Our work has directly benefited approximately 371 square miles of coral reef habitat. Partnership efforts have resulted in the training of 36 people in ecosystem-based adaptation and 610 commercial fishers in data reporting, provision of on-site management assistance to eighteen coral reef sites, and four sites supported in aspects of management planning.

  • Developed the first prototype for an electronic reporting application specific to Puerto Rico. This technology supports more informed, timely and effective management decisions for reef fisheries.
  • Supported training of fishers in responsible fishing practices, including regulations, license and permit requirements, through the development of the Commercial Fishers Education Program Guiding Document.
  • Developed human-use maps and GIS geodatabase for Culebra Island to identify human stressors to coral reefs. The spatial information developed supports integrated coastal zone management efforts. All data is available to managers and the general public.
  • Puerto Rico joined the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) by committing to conserve at least 20% of nearshore marine environments as national marine protected areas by 2020 and create a National Conservation Trust Fund. Nature Conservancy staff advised the Puerto Rican CCI delegation, provided technical support to draft the Puerto Rico Declaration, participated in key meetings leading to a summit, and hosted the first ministerial CCI meeting. The PR Natural Protected Areas Trust Fund is currently being developed and will be fully functional by 2019.
  • Provided technical support to develop the first document to assess Puerto Rico’s vulnerability to climate change (“Puerto Rico State of the Climate Report”). Based on this report, the governor of Puerto Rico issued five executive orders which mandate all public agencies to create climate adaptation plans for public infrastructure.

Success Story: Enhancing Resource Management through Technology and Engagement of Fishers

ishers play a major role in the local economy of Puerto Rico. Between 2010 and 2015, fishermen across Puerto Rico landed close to 2.4 million pounds of seafood, generating revenues of about $8.6 million per year. Unfortunately, many of Puerto Rico’s vital fisheries are threatened by overfishing.

Traditionally, fishers have manually recorded and shared their harvest data using simple pen and paper, but this method is time-consuming and prone to error. In 2016, the Partnership supported development of Puerto Rico’s first electronic reporting application and data viewing platform. This new, mobile technology allows fishers to quickly and easily collect their harvest data and share it with fisheries managers, allowing for more informed management decisions across all of Puerto Rico’s commercial fisheries.

To date, the Partnership has trained approximately 65 fishers in the use of the new electronic reporting technology. By 2020, it is expected that no less than 70 percent of commercial fishers in Puerto Rico will enter their harvest data electronically. In addition, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC), the Partnership has supported development of the first ever Commercial Fisher’s Education Program (PEPCO) to increase understanding of commercial fishing regulations, license and permit requirements, and basic fisheries management and conservation concepts.

To date, 514 commercial fishers from across Puerto Rico have participated. In 2017, in collaboration with CFMC, the Partnership developed the first PEPCO workshop manual which contains all information provided through PEPCO courses with easy to follow instructions, pictures, and figures for fishers who aren’t able to attend the workshop.

The fishing community has been incredibly receptive of both the new electronic reporting application and education program. Fishers are beginning to view fisheries improvement as a collaborative process—they have even advocated for the closure of certain fisheries to allow fish populations time to rebound.

Andres Maldonado, a commercial fisher of conch and lobster, said “this new technology [electronic reporting] will make things easier and save us time; fishers are receptive to technologies that help them improve their working conditions.”

 “The electronic reporting application benefits commercial fishers by providing them with personal records of their catch and making it easier to enter and send their data using their phones, tablet, or computer.”  –Daniel Matos, Fisheries Research Laboratory, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER)

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