Vieques reefs

Edwin Hernandez-Delgado coral_giac at
Mon Nov 29 13:35:17 EST 1999

Dear Coral-Listers:

This is to thank you all for bringing into the public forum the Vieques 
(Puerto Rico) bombing issue. There have been excellent recommendations. 
However, there are still two aspects that require additional comments.

First, Arnfried Antonius commented a few days ago that it has been long 
known that bombs do not harm coral reefs. This is simply false and the 
conclusions of that study can not be used as an excuse to keep the US Navy 
bombing our coral reefs and killing Puerto Rican civilians.

The effects of hurricanes and bombs will be different, depending on the 
spatial and temporal scales being measured. Hurricanes do harm coral reefs 
at larger spatial scales than bombs do, but to my knowledge, no hurricane 
has been able to open 25 meter wide, 5 meter deep craters in a coral reef, 
such as those present in Vieques and Culebra islands. No hurricane has been 
able to crack or pulverize huge coral heads such as those demolished by 
bombs in Vieques and Culebra. Furthermore, no hurricane has been able to 
cause massive fish kills in a matter of seconds such as bombing does.  We 
should not try to minimize the physical destruction caused by the massive 
cratering of Vieques reefs.  So, we should not confuse one thing with the 
other, and should not use it as an excuse to protect the US Navy interests.

More recently, Gene Shinn brought back the issue and added the comment that 
there were more fish in that area than elsewhere in Puerto Rico, adding that 
no wonder why the head of the Vieques fishermen association in the leader of 
the movement against the US Navy here.

1. I haven't had the opportunity to see that report, but would like to see 
the data to which comparisons were made.  My own studies (Ph.D. 
Dissertation; and Hernandez-Delgado and Sabat, in press) show that there is 
a clear gradient of increasing fish species richness, diversity, abundance, 
average size and standing stock biomass as we move across the insular shelf 
from environmentally-degraded and over-exploited coral reefs to offshore 
remote coral reefs. Vieques' coral reefs are considered remote in relation 
to highly degraded coastal areas in the main island of Puerto Rico.

2. Nobody has actualized quantitative information about the status of coral 
reef fish communities n Vieques to establish a baseline ata bank, and to 
compare the status of fish communities within and outside of target areas. 
We have tried to seek a permit for that and did not even recieved an answer.

3. I didn't understand Shinn's comment regarding the fishermen, but 
everybody should know that, not only fishermen, but the whole Vieques Island 
community, many political, syndical and women organizations, students and 
faculty from all univerities, the Catholic Church, as well as many other 
local, national and international religious, social, political, grassroots 
and environmental organizations support Vieques in their struggle to finish 
bombing by the US Navy.  Even, most of our politicians support viequenses.  
Just to clarify that this is not a matter of fishing or not within target 
areas because even target areas have been sporadically fished.

Edwin A. Hernandez-Delgado
Research Associate
University of Puerto Rico
Department of Biology
Coral Reef Research Group
P.O. Box 23360
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tel. (787) 764-0000, x-4855
Fax  (787) 764-2610

e-mail: coral_giac at

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