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Isla Verde 1949

Citizen work to achieve the designation of the Isla Verde Reef
Marine Reserve.

2005 - 2014

Written by Paco López Mújica – Arrecifes pro Ciudad Inc.


2008 Another year of taking photos and updating the PowerPoint presentation. We designed the first brochure about the Isla Verde Reef and the idea of protecting it. We met the VIDAS group in Vega Baja, Coralations in Culebra and GUARDAMAR in Puerta de Tierra. Due to the efforts of the neighbor Rafael Palacios and the attention of Ernesto Díaz, 5 buoys were placed in the “Manatí Area” so that the Jet skis would slow down (5 miles). First teaching, “We are not alone in this conservation effort, there are others involved and we can advise each other. We apply the symbiotic relationship that we observe in the reefs.” That year, while swimming, we found a pot placed in the middle of the Reef. In the summer, the “Chacha” ran aground, a yacht that scraped and impacted part of the corals. We have this accident fully documented thanks to Ricardo de Soto. In November, the first documented swells in the area occur in recent times, affecting the coast. The waves covered the islet and killed its vegetation. On May 22 of that year, the proposal for the designation of the Marine Reserve was brought to Governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá. We never received a response from that management. That year we also went to the Public Works Department to request and purchase historical photos of the area to understand its history. 2009 This is the most important year of the Reef protection process. We bought the kayaks and started the year visiting, photographing and studying the key of Isla Verde. On May 15, we founded Álida Ortíz, Annette Tolentino, Carlos Félix, Samuel Suleimán, Robert Matos and Paco López, the Committee for the Designation of the Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve. Arrecifes Pro Ciudad Inc. was incorporated before the Department of State to find a non-profit legal entity. A Jet Ski dealer located his business on top of the Reef. We began the process of removing this business that took us 5 months of intense work. We did the first night dives. We were invited to the Coral Reef Task Force meeting held at the Caribe Hilton Hotel and an informative poster was presented. This was the first activity in the world of corals that we attended where the "NGO's", Academia, Government, state, and federal entities live. The first research work is done with the students and members of the Marine Environment Society Chapter, taking data using the RECON system. On November 11, the first meeting is organized with the community, users, neighbors, municipal and state entities, as well as members of the Academy. The meeting took place at the Hotel La Playa and was a success. The idea of conservation was presented, covered in the press, and was very well received. We began the process of collecting signatures by endorsing the Marine Reserve. We received the information of an archaeological investigation carried out by Jesús Vega in his master’s thesis and photos of the archaeological finds in the Cayo de la Isla Verde. In addition, Jesús Vega presents us with a historical angle of the area unknown to us and fundamental to knowing the place. We wrote a letter to the Mayor of Carolina Hon. José Aponte Dalmau with the purpose of making him known about the project. This allowed us to attend the first activities of the Municipality of Carolina, invited by Mirgrelis Ramos, where we showed the Reef and its inhabitants by setting up a table with a monitor and the Power Point presentation, "Underwater Garden of the Green Island", was shown to them. interested parties about this resource and we collected signatures. An article on the Carolinenses Reef is published in Viva Carolina, La Revista. An article on the reef and the proposal to convert it into a Marine Reserve was also published in the weekly La Regata. 2010 This year we will remember it as the Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve “Presented to Society”. We wrote the first Informative Bulletin of the Isla Verde Reef with graphics on the activities carried out in 2009. The T-shirt for children and adults was designed. The Isla Verde Reef Gmail account was registered with 100 people in the directory. We attended a meeting in Isabela where we observed the vociferous opposition of commercial fishermen to the proposed Marine Reserve in the area. We were invited to the Symposium on Planning and Management of Submerged Lands organized by the DNER Coastal Zone Management Program to make a presentation on the Isla Verde Reef and our proposal to protect it and convert it into a Marine Reserve. We consider this activity the most important and the one that makes it known within the DNER that the citizen's commitment is serious and determined. 14 folders were distributed to collect signatures in different centers and entities. We identify "surfing" activities, environmental events as ideal opportunities 2011 We organized the 2010 report and sent it by email to 250 people and organizations. That year began with the creation of the coloring book and its realization was a contribution of Arrecifes Pro Ciudad to the process of designation of the Marine Reserve. With the advice of Robert Matos, we chose the most representative species of the Reef, giving a characterization of the Urban Reef to this educational and informative material. The funds for printing the 10,000 copies were provided by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. This book has the dual purpose of making the reef known and raising funds for the expenses of the Marine Reserve. It turned out to be a great tool for workshops and educational talks. We hold workshops with schools near our area and attend summer camps with the project, “Painting the Green Island Reef”. Exhibition at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art on the work done by children inspired by the species of the Reef. We organized the 2010 report and sent it by email to 250 people and organizations. That year began with the creation of the coloring book and its realization was a contribution of Arrecifes Pro Ciudad to the process of designation of the Marine Reserve. With the advice of Robert Matos, we chose the most representative species of the Reef, giving a characterization of the Urban Reef to this educational and informative material. The funds for printing the 10,000 copies were provided by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. This book has the dual purpose of making the reef known and raising funds for the expenses of the Marine Reserve. It turned out to be a great tool for workshops and educational talks. We hold workshops with schools near our area and attend summer camps with the project, “Painting the Green Island Reef”. Exhibition at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art on the work done by children inspired by the species of the Reef. In terms of academia, Gloribel Cruz completed her master’s thesis at UMET on the Isla Verde Reef, making it the first study of this natural resource, and as part of the research process, two focus groups were held, the first with residents and the second with area merchants. Iván Montilla began his master’s thesis on the impact of sediment on corals, placing four stations with sediment traps and transepts in their surroundings, analyzing coral cover. Joseph Toledo. One of the most relevant findings this year was the appearance of a newborn Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, on the shore, among the sargassum in the area known as “la playa” Isla Verde west. At the beginning of 2011, the Designation Committee held its first meeting with the task of identifying allies in the legislature who would present the bill for the designation of the Marine Reserve. The DNER specifically, Cristina Cabrera, coordinated the visit to Representative Elyzabeth Casado and we were accompanied by friends of the Department and the presentation was very positively received. That year we received the written endorsement of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. As part of the training process, we were invited by the DNER to the Training Workshop for Environmental Educators: Needs and changes in the Coastal Zone and we were also able to make a presentation at the Second Coral Reef Conversation held at the Convention Center. We gave a talk on the beach for volunteers from the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. We placed the first camera over the Isla Verde Reef which is broadcasting 24/7 on the internet, for free and thanks to A.J. Castro at Swimming in the Reef we meet Marena for the first time, one of the manatees that turn around in these waters seeking refuge when the sea gets rough and feeding on the seagrass meadows that are found in this place. Having found Marena, evidenced by photos and videos, made a huge difference and caught the attention of the media. Benito Pinto, our friend at La Regata placed Marena on the cover of that week. The attractiveness of manatees in our idiosyncrasy is remarkable because, together with bats, they are the only native mammals that have survived the human impact after 500 years. On November 2, 2011, Representative Elyzabeth Casado introduces House Bill #3721 “to designate the Isla Verde Reef area as a Marine Reserve.” This bill is referred to the Natural Resources, Environment and Energy Commission. The year 2011 ends with a boost never felt in this effort and although we were aware that the year 2012 would be very difficult for the appointment as it was the year of election. 2012 This was the year of the Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve, and we expressed it in the New Year's card that we sent to the friends of the Reef. The 2011 Activity Report for the designation of the Marine Reserve was prepared and circulated. On January 31, the Eye View was held on the Isla Verde beach, in front of the Reef, chaired by Representative Eric Correa with the assistance of Representative Elyzabeth Casado and the friends of the Reef, neighbors and users who attended this historic event. In this view, it was possible to observe the area that was proposed to be protected and the possible conflicts that this measure could lead to, mainly with the fishermen who use this resource in the summer and the established Jet Ski dealers. We observe the characteristics of the beach, the structures built on the beach, the enormous difference in profile on the shore where we have the reef in front and where it ends (between Pine Grove and Playa Dorada). In this ocular view, the agenda to be followed on Project 3721 was presented, highlighting the Public View to which users, governmental and non-governmental institutions, hotels, and concessionaires would be summoned. This activity was covered by the press (Primera Hora) and the information reached a large number of the public. The beginning of 2012 came with a lot of activity and urgency. The Committee met in January and prepared for the hearings to be held on February 2, in the House of Representatives. At the Vista, papers were presented from the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, Tourism Company, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, for the Academy, Professor Álida Ortiz presented her paper in writing and for the community we presented Beaches for All and Reefs Pro Ciudad and Committee for the Designation of the Marine Reserve. Dealers also attended this hearing; the Municipality of Carolina had its representation in Mirgrelis Ramos and the Association of Hotels and Tourism was also represented. All the written presentations were favorable to Project 3721 and the Commission Representatives present there also endorsed the measure. The DNER objected to two points of the Project 1- about the time of four months that the DNER was given for the preparation of the Management Plan and 2- having to identify the $100,000 that the law dictates. These two points were considered. With the first, the 4 months were maintained and with the money, the Chamber identified the origin of the money to assign it to the DNER. The money would be used for four main purposes: 1- Management Plan 2- Placement and materials for buoys with spare parts 3- Information signs 4- Education about the resource. The Chamber approved 3721 unanimously in April of that year and passed to the Natural Resources Committee of the Senate for study and vote. At this time, we receive the extraordinary help of Jorge Fernández Porto who advised us to carry out a lobbying report on Project 3721. The Senate approves it on June 10 and there begins a long waiting time until the Governor finally signs it. Luis Fortuño on September 26. On the 28th of that month, the formal designation activity of the first Isla Verde Reef Urban Marine Reserve was carried out at Hotel La Playa with the presence of Representative Elyzabeth Casado, DNER Secretary Daniel Galán Kerkado, Director of the Luis Rivera Marín Tourism Company, the Director of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, Javier Laureano. While all this process was taking place, several activities were carried out during the year. First Congress of Natural Protected Areas of Puerto Rico organized by The Nature Conservancy, the First Tortuguero Meeting held on February 25 at the DNER. We participated in a Workshop held in Fajardo on MPAs, organized by the DNER and directed by Professor Dra. Álida Ortíz. Presentation at the Salvador Brau School in Carolina. The Sierra Club invited us to present the project at the School of Architecture, UPR-Rio Piedras. CESAM Student Chapter of the Marine Environment Society, visits the Isla Verde Reef A talk was held on the beach and then we went swimming in the Reef. The San Juan Bay Estuary Program organized a field visit to the Beach for volunteers to get to know the place. “Paint the Reef” and sign supporting the Marine Reserve at the Tinglar Festival – Luquillo. We participated in television programs such as “Aventura Científica” by María Falcón and in “Puertorriqueñísimo”, interviews on Channel 11 with Susan Soltero. The Islaverde Reef Channel was registered on You Tube and underwater videos of species that inhabit this reef were published for greater dissemination of this resource. A camera was installed recording live images 24/7 at -, a service that our friend Alberto J Castro offered us helping the Reef in its access, security and local and international exposure of the Isla Verde Reef. Certainly, 2012 was the year of the Reef for the designation of the Reserve, for having had less rain than the previous two years and a notable increase in public recognition. This is how we will remember it. 2013 The new year card was sent and the PPT presentation “Summary 2012” was prepared. In January, the annual report was circulated to 450 people and organizations. CSA Group was selected by the DNER to carry out the work of the Reserve Management Plan. Robert Matos took the initiative to communicate with CSA Group to coordinate a meeting with representatives of the DNER, Clarimar Díaz, Robert Matos and Paco López representing the Board of Management and Reefs Pro Ciudad with the purpose of informing CSA Group of the history of the community effort in the designation, the importance of their participation in the Management Plan process, the contribution of information and establishing a work plan. On March 1, the first meeting of the Marine Reserve Management Board was held with the people who had participated from the Designation Committee – Álida Ortiz, Annette Tolentino, Carlos Félix, Robert Matos, Samuel Suleimán and Paco López. For the formation of the Board, it was agreed to expand it with two more members, and these are Alberto Pérez, owner of the Hotel La Playa and the lawyer Gino Negretti. The following is decided between the DNER and Arrecifes Pro Ciudad: The Agreement has already been approved by the Board and Robert Matos offered to deliver it to Edgardo González, Administrator of the Department, and later a digital version is delivered to the legal division. This agreement will form part of the Collaborative Management Plan. On April 4, the Management Board meets with Secretary Carmen Guerrero and her assistants. In that meeting, a draft of the Collaborative Agreement, a draft of the Administrative Order of NO FISHING is presented to the Secretary, in which the Management Plan is completed, the buoys and the signs are placed. In addition, the status of the Management Plan is discussed, which is currently being worked on by the CSA Group contracted by the DNER in December 2012. The Board obtains from that meeting the commitment of the Secretary to work together to accelerate the process of protecting the Reef and the Marine Reserve area. On May 2, Paco López presents to the Board the informative and educational sign for the Reserve based on the one currently used by the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincón. This sign is designed in Spanish and English and, observing the aerial image of the accesses to the Reserve, we consider that there should be five signs to be installed: 1- Extreme southeast of the Reserve (adjacent to Balneario de Carolina) 2- Access to Calle Horizontes, 3 - Access Calle Violeta, 4- Access Calle Dalia, 5- Southwest end of the Reserve (Access Calle Gardenia). This sign is submitted to the Department for approval. On May 28, a meeting was held at the Hotel La Playa “What about the Marine Reserve?” where neighbors, merchants, dealers, users of Isla Verde beaches, press, representatives of government agencies, representatives of the Municipality of Carolina, teachers and students of environmental sciences and representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations were invited. At that meeting, an overview of the work that was being carried out, the negotiations with the DNER, the informative-educational sign that would be installed at the accesses and the Management Plan was presented, explained by María Coronado, representative of CSA Group. Marine Reserve Management Plan – The Management Board after requesting in writing once again that they include us, the community, those of us who have worked all these years to achieve the protection of this place. By order of the Secretary, Carmen Guerrero we received the drafts of the first six chapters. We analyze them and we are waiting for the DNER to convene an INCLUSIVE meeting where all the parties involved can contribute and attend to our observations on the management plan. In June, the CSA Group contract expired without having completed the Management Plan. In December, the new contract is signed with CSA Group for the continuation and conclusion of the Management Plan. In the months of July and August we were calculating the buoys on the boat of Kenny Pastor, Isla Verde concessionaire who did us a great favor since the DNER did not have a boat available at that time. Under the direction of Robert Matos, we marked the coordinates, took photos of the sea floor in each place where the Helix anchor buoys will be placed. Nilda Jiménez from the DNER presented these documents to the USACE for the federal buoy placement permits. The requisition of the necessary buoys and materials has already been made. This purchase is made with the money that the Legislature assigns to the DNER ($100,000.) for these tasks and equipment. 2013 has been a very rare year in the maritime aspect. Summer came late beginning in August and continuing until the middle of October. It was not a year of many dives and at no time did we see clear waters. A lot of current that in this place translates into wallowing sediment so videos and good photos were taken but not like in previous years. In June we received a visit from the Leatherback that nested on the beach located exactly in the middle of the Marine Reserve. This nesting was very important for the involvement of the residents of the area and allowed us to celebrate the first "Talk on the Beach" on August 2, which was attended by users, neighbors, student entities and groups of citizens who protect the environment. Power Points from the Marine Reserve and Biologist Carlos Diez on Sea Turtles were presented. This activity marked a crucial moment for this area because the names of many people willing to collaborate in the effort to protect our beaches, reefs and the species that inhabit them were collected. On August 20 we received the strongest blow we have suffered so far in this place since we began work. We have always been aware of some fishermen in this reef that alters the concept of breeding of species that is specified by Law 274 of September 26, 2012. With this urgent request we went, the Management Board on April 4 before the Secretary requesting an Order Administrative of NO FISHING. The strategy was as follows: 1- As soon as the Management Plan is finished, we request the NO FISHING Order, 2- We call a meeting with the state and municipal entities, the community, and establish the Surveillance Protocol with the collaboration of all everybody. But that wasn't thanks to an outdated concept from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources that if we don't do it, nobody else does it. A mentality from 1970 that now, to the misfortune of those officials too jealous of their functions... and their pockets, is over, that has ceased to exist because the government is bankrupt, and they need our help. The argument to deny us the request for the NO FISHING Order was that the DNER Watch Corps did not have an adequate place to exercise surveillance over the Isla Verde Reef and therefore, as the DNER cannot assign a person to watch 24/ 7, fishing cannot be prohibited. The massacre of August 20 at Isla Verde Reef - 91 lobsters, 32 parrotfish, 8 coral crabs of the lobsters, 7 had eggs. This Seizure was given thanks to the intervention of the neighbor Hermín Negrón and the Municipal Police who carried out the arrest and seizure. The least we expected the next day was a press conference from the Secretary signing the NO FISHING Order. That never happened. As of December 2, 2013, we are still waiting for the Order to start protecting these endangered species. Boca de Cangrejos Dredging – In June we received information that the Cangrejo Yacht Club had requested permission to dredge the entrance to Cangrejos. As we know, this entrance was artificially opened in 1951 when the construction of the International Airport began. The Board understands that the dredging has to be done but on June 19, Arrecifes Pro Ciudad and the Management Board requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intervened in this matter as we had information that at the state level the petitioners for the dredging had all the permits to carry out the dredging without any mitigation plan or sediment containment. Until the month of December in which this report is written, we do not know what has happened in USACOE with that request and we are waiting for information. The Sanitary Sewers and the AAA – From the beginning of this deed we have pointed out as one of the threats to this reef, the sanitary sewers that overflow, the sanitary waters go through the gutter towards the storm sewer register and this discharge directly into the sea. This affects the health of bathers and the reef component. To analyze this situation, we met on September 17 with Biologists Pedro Gonzalez, Alberto Pérez and Hector Cepeda from AAA and we went through all the sewers, opening them and observing the degree of obstruction they have due to the fats and oils that are thrown down the sinks. of area apartments and homes. The AAA uncovered the sanitary sewer lines in Urb. Biascoechea but to prevent this from happening again we are scheduling a meeting with the community, Board of Directors of Condominiums in the area to offer a service that the Edelcar company is willing to offer us, which consists in the installation of containers for fats and oils in the condominiums and they collect it free of charge. This could help us enormously in cleaning our waters. Watchers of the Reef – On October 28 we held a meeting at Hotel La Playa to organize a body of volunteers, Watchers of the Reef and in a large meeting we signed up 22 volunteers with the purpose of being ready for when the Secretary of the DNER sign the NO FISHING Order, have the Reef Rangers already trained, and present the Isla Verde Reef Surveillance Protocol among the volunteers, the Ranger Corps, and the State and Municipal Police. We have already written a Protocol proposal and sent it to the DNER to counter the argument that the Order cannot be issued because there is not enough vigilance on the part of the DNER. Educational Works – This year 2013 in which this document is signed has been very intense in terms of educational work. To address two main issues that threaten our coral reefs, water quality and lionfish as an invasive species. For this purpose, the DNER contracted the services of Paco López to make animated messages on these issues. From February to September, we were developing the animations, "Chef Volitans and the Lionfish" and "Cleaning the Water with the Pelican Chana". These two works of 90 seconds each are circulating on the Islaverde Reef channel on YouTube. With this material, educational comics workshops, interactive workshops with animated objects, plays, poster workshops, musical creation and talks after the exhibition of the animations can be developed as a starting point. The creation of t-shirts promotes the cause and generates funds to achieve self-management. Activities – We started the year with the Meeting of Turtle Groups We participated in two coral farm forums held at the DNER. We have given talks in schools in the Isla Verde area, in the Montessori Las Casitas de Mayagüez, Meeting with the Community - "What about the Marine Reserve" on May 28, participation in a radio station to announce the activities, Meeting with the Community – “Watchmen of the Reef” in this activity, 25 volunteers signed up to serve as Watchmen of the Reef, training workshops sponsored by the DNER such as the Symposium on Endangered or Endangered Species, the sand workshop and the Pollution Workshop Light on the Beaches, we want to point out that with this workshop the collaborative relationship between the DNER, the Municipality of Carolina and the Community began and on December 13, within the activities of the "Caribbean Landscaping Conservation Cooperative Annual Meeting", a presentation was made in English and a visit to Isla Verde beach to publicize the place and the conservation efforts. In the month of December, a great work dynamic has been developed on the Marine Reserve, both the Department and the Management Board have been meeting and working on the design of the signs, the Collaborative Agreement, the NO FISHING Order and the educational plan for the Marine Reserve 2014. The Management Board acknowledges and appreciates the completion of the work that we requested at the meeting on April 4. We will continue to emphasize the importance of community participation in all meetings and decisions made about this Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve. We've been eight years and we're just starting... 2014 On January 23, the Collaborative Agreement for the Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve was signed between the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Autonomous Municipality of Carolina and Arrecifes Pro Ciudad Inc. Secretary Carmen Guerrero also signed Administrative Order No. 2014 -01 “To decree a ban on fishing and the collection of organisms in the Isla Verde Reef Marine Reserve”. This is a great achievement for the Pro Ciudad Reserve and Reef Management Board, which since April 2013 requested both documents for the protection of the Marine Reserve. In Pine Grove, Isla Verde Carolina, February 12, 2014.

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