Vieques reefs

David Niebuhr niebuhr at
Mon Nov 29 13:12:53 EST 1999

Dear Gene:

The situation on Vieques is complex. Yes, one of the leaders of the movement to
remove the Navy from Vieques is the president of the local Fishermans'
Association. He is also an avid supporter of several grass-roots efforts to
protect and preserve the island's natural resources and has a keen respect for
the island, its people, and its unique habitats. He has helped me in my
research and has provided boats and manpower for efforts to monitor and protect
Puerto Mosquito.

I caution you not to assume that because this gentleman is a a fisherman he
only wants to see the Navy out so fishermen can exploit the local resources.

I repeat, the Vieques situation is complex. The Viequense have been isolated on
their own island, there is tremendous pressure to "modernize" and "develop" the
island for "the sake of the people," and the island harbors some healthy reefs
and two of the last (monoculture- Pyrodinium bahamense) bioluminescent bays in
the Caribbean. There are many "interests" involved in the Vieques situation and
very few of them are concerned with protecting coral, bioluminescent bays or
any other important habitat.

I have conducted research on both Vieques' reef systems and on Puerto Mosquito
(biobay). I have worked with local environmental groups (Vieques Conservation
and Historic Trust) and I have provided expert evidence in a law suit filed
against the Municipality of Isabel Segunda, the Dept. of the Interior, the EPA
and the Navy for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species

I have been quietly amused while this discussion has raged on the coral list. I
am glad so many people have taken interest in this small island's welfare, but
I'm afraid that witohut knowing the island many folks are looking for simple
answers to an extremely difficult question.

The state of the coral and other important habitats located at Vieques is not
solely the result of limited fishing harvest (they fish is most areas except
during periods of bombing), but is also the result of limited urban and
suburban development and the relatively low  environmental impacts of the
Navy's presence on the island.

The only way to move forward and solve this problem is to move slowly. The
local government, grass roots organizations the Navy and the federal government
need to frame a plan that will solve this problem while protecting Vieques'
unique resources.

Gene Shinn wrote:

> It concluded that the reason was that fisherman can't get in.
> The report came to mind when I first read that the leader of the movement
> to get the Navy out is the head of the Fishermans Association.

--David Niebuhr

David H. Niebuhr, Ph.D.
Education and Communications Coordinator
Chesapeake Bay NERR in Virginia/School of Education
College of William and Mary
POB 1346 Gloucester Pt., VA 23062
Phone: 804.684.7144
Fax:   804.684.7120
niebuhr at

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