CORALations corals at
Mon Nov 15 07:02:55 EST 1999

As a marine conservation organization based in Puerto Rico, we ask that you
sign on to the following letter to President Clinton asking that he STOP
live fire target practice on the island of Vieques.

At the recent coral reef executive task force meeting we were surprised that
many people did not know the following:

-Vieques has a population of over 9,000 people. This is not a deserted

-The U.S. Navy targets coral reefs in violation of the 1983 Memorandum of
Understanding with the local government.

-The people of Vieques have been outspokenly opposed to Navy use of the
island for live fire target practice for the last 60 years. Last spring a
civilian guard named David Sanes was killed, and four others injured when
a pilot accidentally dropped bombs which missed the target area. This
has united the people of Puerto Rico who are now asking that the Navy not
resume live fire practice on the island.

-U.S. Navy makes large amounts of money leasing the island of Vieques to
foreign powers for live fire target practice. Last year, the Navy's web site
advertised the island of Vieques as follows:

"One stop shopping - capability of excellence in all warfare areas with the
right vision of the future...yields high return on investment."

-With the exception of the target area, this biologically diverse island
supports some of the healthiest coral reef with greatest percentage coral
coverage remaining in U.S. Caribbean waters. Not unexpectedly, coral
coverage and health improves as one moves away from the target area. There
are a number of endangered species in the area of impact including seasonal
whale populations and Giant Leatherbacks who instinctively return to nest on
Navy beaches.  We have seen one photo of a Leatherback washed ashore,
spilling eggs, bleeding from mouth consistent head trauma from underwater
shock. Vieques is also home and provides nesting habitat for many species of
endangered sea birds

-The decision to resume live fire target practice is now in the hands of
President Clinton. Navy contends that live fire target practice on Vieques
is an absolute necessity. They say this is an issue of National Security.
They said the same thing when the people of Puerto Rico asked them to cease
the live fire target practice on the municipal island of Culebra 20 years
ago. Today, unexploded ordnance litters coral reefs in
Culebra, which has a population approaching 5,000, and other popular dive
destinations in Puerto Rico including the uninhabited
islands of Desecheo and Mona.

-We hope that as experts in coral reef education, management and
conservation, you will sign on this letter to the President to aid in his
decision. The ecosystem being destroyed is of global importance and we no
longer have the "luxury," if we ever had, of targeting biologically diverse
tropical ecosystem. Please sign on the letter below if you haven't already,
and make a quick call to the White House TODAY.   The President will most
likely make his final decision within the next two days.


White House Comment Line  Phone:  202-456-1111
White House Fax Line 202-456-2461
Clinton's e-mail:   president at
Gore's e-mail:   vice-president at
White House Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20500

From: Phillip Dustan <pdustan at>
To: coral-list at
Cc: jhsterne at
Subject: Vieques letter to President Clinton - Please sign on
Date: Tuesday, November 09, 1999 6:15 PM

Dear Colleagues,

I'd like to thank all of you who contributed to my knowledge of Vieques
Island two weeks ago.  I wanted to learn more about the island as I was
going to the US Coral Reef Task Force Meetings in St. Croix and knew it
would be an issue at the meeting.  The more I found out, the more I came to
the realization that the ecology of Vieques is being harmed and perhaps it
is time to do something about it.  Regardless of your feelings about the
politics of Vieques, It seems to me that it is important to stop the
bombing ASAP.

Jay Sterne, colleague of mine, works for the law firm of Verner, Liipfert,
Bernhard, McPherson & Hand in Washington D.C.  The firm works on behalf of
the Government of Puerto Rico which is opposed to the continued bombing of
Vieques Island.  Jay is collecting signatures for the following letter to
President Clinton.  If you would like to be a signatory on this letter,
please email your name and affiliation to him at jhsterne at
Since this issue involves much more than coral reefs (ie. manatees, sea
turtles, endemic plant species, birds, and many other groups), please feel
free to post this message on any list you feel may be appropriate for the
conservation of the island and its surrounding waters.


Phil Dustan




November __, 1999

President William J. Clinton

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The undersigned members of the scientific community and organizations are
writing to urge you to exercise your authority to permanently halt all live
fire military exercises and bombing activities in the vicinity of the
Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.  Vieques is home to some of the most
extraordinary ecosystems on the planet, including three of the world's
seven surviving bioluminescent bays and some of the healthiest and most
diverse coral reefs found in U.S. Carribean territorial waters.  The island
also provides important habitat for numerous species protected under the
Endangered Species Act including manatees, brown pelicans, and green,
hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles, as well as several
endangered plants.  The Navy's nearly year-round use of Vieques for an
unparalleled level of bombing has already resulted in significant harm to
the Island's fragile marine and terrestrial ecology.  Further, we believe
further damage must be avoided.

A preliminary study of the Navy's impact on the reefs has confirmed damage
from direct hits, damage from shock waves caused by ordnance landing in
nearby waters, and damage from unexploded ordnance shifted by wave action.
Despite having entered into a binding 1983 Memorandum of Understanding with
the Government of Puerto Rico in which it agreed to stop targeting and
shelling offshore coral reefs, the Navy has continued these practices and
caused further destruction.  Today, large amounts of unexploded ordnance
lie on the coral reefs of Vieques.  The Navy simply has failed to undertake
any meaningful clean-up efforts, or any other steps to stop further
degradation of these coral reefs, let alone measures to enhance their

The harm to Vieques's coral reefs caused by the Navy's activities is
clearly inconsistent with your Executive Order 13089 which seeks to enhance
federal protection of coral reefs and specifically requires all federal

"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 Navy's actions clearly violate the letter and spirit of your directive.

The Navy continues to violate the Endangered Species Act, which 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 Navy has failed to perform consultations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, as required pursuant to
§ 7 of the Endangered Species Act, to determine the impact of its actions
on endangered or threatened species, including manatees, sea turtles, and
brown pelicans.

In addition to its disregard for the Endangered Species Act, the Navy
continues to violate the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act, which establish protective standards for water quality and
soil contamination, respectively.  It has been almost twenty years since
the Navy completed its only Environmental Impact Statement on its Vieques
operations.  The report concluded that "potentially productive" portions of
the island had been converted into "wasteland" by its aerial attacks.
Finally, there are numerous toxic waste dumps and contamination sites
scattered around Vieques, contributing to the release of depleted uranium,
cyanide compounds, napalm, RDX, toulene and other hazardous substances into
the island's ecosystems.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. Navy has consistently disregarded federal
environmental protection mandates on Vieques, but it is all the more reason
to make the current cessation of its destructive activities permanent.  It
is also imperative that the Navy begins the crucial task of remediating the
considerable contamination it has caused throughout the island.  The
undersigned members of the scientific community and organizations call on
you to stop the Navy from resuming live fire exercises on Vieques, and to
authorize and direct the Navy to develop strategy for rehabilitation and
clean-up activities on the Island.


<bigger>      </bigger> Phillip Dustan <smaller> </smaller>

Department of Biology   and Science Adivsor  to

College of Charleston           The Cousteau Society

Charleston SC 29424

pdustan at

(843) 953-8086

(843)953-5453 Fax

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