ReefKeeper Intl on Vieques Bombing
reefkeeper at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 3 04:48:25 EST 1999
DEAR CORAL LISTERS:
BELOW IS REEFKEEPER INTERNATIONAL'S REQUEST TO PRESIDENT CLINTON FOR A
PERMANENT HALT TO LIVE BOMBING AT VIEQUES. LET'S ALL KEEP THE PRESSURE
December 3, 1999
President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Navy Bombing at Vieques, Puerto Rico
Dear President Clinton:
ReefKeeper International urges you to permanently eliminate the
live-fire bombing occurring on the coral reefs off Vieques Island,
Puerto Rico. ReefKeeper International, a non-profit conservation
organization with members in the United States, including Puerto Rico,
and abroad, has been working for over 10 years to protect coral reefs
throughout the world.
Importance of Vieques Island's Marine Environment
The marine waters surrounding Vieques Island are home to some of the
most extraordinary ecosystems in the world. Of the seven bioluminescent
bays in the world, three are at Vieques Island. The coral reefs off
Vieques Island where bomb craters are not present are among the
healthiest and most diverse in the U.S. Caribbean. Endangered species
such as manatees, brown pelicans and four species of sea turtles (green,
hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead) rely on the marine environment
of Vieques Island.
The Threat to Vieques' Coral Reefs
The Navy has used the marine waters off Vieques Island, including the
fragile coral reefs, for live-fire practice. The dropping and
subsequent explosions of heavy ordinance has already resulted in
significant harm to the marine environment.
Craters in the coral reef measuring 25 meters wide and 5 meters deep
have been reported (Hernandez-Delgado, 1999). Huge coral heads are
cracked or pulverized and large numbers of fish are killed in a matter
of seconds when a bomb is dropped. In Sri Lanka, smaller blasting by
dynamite has been reported to not only directly damage the blast area
but keep larger fish such as groupers away from reefs as far as 1.5 km
away from the blast site (Weerakkody, 1999). This adverse impact on
reef fish populations from just a small blast must be significantly
larger in the area of Vieques Island, where the blasting occurs on a
much larger scale.
Unexploded ordinances remain around the island, posing a danger not
only to fishers and divers but to the marine life inhabiting the area.
The precious coral reefs off Vieques Island literally resemble a war
1983 Memorandum of Understanding
In 1983, the Government of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Navy entered into a
Memorandum of Understanding in which it agreed that the U.S. Navy would
stop targeting and shelling offshore coral reefs. In complete violation
of that memorandum, the U.S. Navy has continued these practices and
caused further destruction to the marine ecosystem.
Endangered Species Act Violations
The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to:
"ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such
agency ... . . is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of
any endangered species or threatened species or result in the
destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat."
The continued bombing of coral reefs off Vieques Island clearly fails to
protect endangered manatees, pelicans, and sea turtles. The U.S. Navy
has even failed to determine the impact of its actions on endangered or
threatened species, as required pursuant by Section 7.0 of the
Endangered Species Act.
E.O. 13089 - Your Clear Obligation to Act
Executive Order 13089, signed by your hand on June 11, 1998, states in
Section 2 :
"All Federal agencies whose actions may affect U.S. coral reef
ecosystems shall: ... (b) utilize their programs and authorities to
protect and enhance the conditions of such ecosystems; and (c) to the
extent permitted by law, ensure that any actions they authorize, fund,
or carry out will not degrade the conditions of such ecosystems."
The continued bombing of the coral reefs off Vieques clearly violate the
language and intent of your Executive Order.
ReefKeeper International respectfully requests that you immediately ban
any further live fire bombing of the coral reefs off Vieques Islands to
protect these valuable marine assets. Thank you for your consideration,
and anticipated support, of our request.
Hernandez-Delgado, Edwin A. Research Associate, University of Puerto
Rico. Posting to coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov, November 29, 1999.
Weerakkody, Prasanna, Nature Conservation Group (Natcog), Sri Lanka.
Posting to coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov, November 29, 1999.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
sponsors coral-list and the Coral Health and Monitoring Program
(CHAMP, http://www.coral.noaa.gov). Please visit the Web site
for instructions on subscribing and unsubscribing to coral-list.
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