ReefKeeper Intl on Vieques Bombing

Alexander Stone reefkeeper at
Fri Dec 3 04:48:25 EST 1999



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." 
(emphasis added)
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.


Alexander Stone


Hernandez-Delgado, Edwin A. Research Associate, University of Puerto 
Rico.  Posting to coral-list at, November 29, 1999.

Weerakkody, Prasanna, Nature Conservation Group (Natcog), Sri Lanka. 
Posting to coral-list at, November 29, 1999.

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