West of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and east of the Dominican Republic lies Puerto Rico, a mountainous archipelago encircled by white sand beaches and precious coral reefs.
The Nature Conservancy established an on-the-ground presence here in 2011 as part of a partnership with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to protect and restore coral reefs, which are threatened by warming temperatures and rising sea levels.
Building on the successes achieved in neighboring Caribbean islands, we're collaborating with stakeholders at the federal, regional and local levels to conserve marine resources in Puerto Rico. In just a few years we've made great strides.
Common Ground at Cabo Rojo
One example is at Cabo Rojo, so named for the reddish color of the salt-flats and seaside cliffs. Located in western Puerto Rico, this coastal community is home to a rich diversity of coral reefs. The region also supports a local economy that depends on recreational use of the beach, coral reefs and offshore waters.
To safeguard both livelihoods and the vulnerable coastal and marine systems at Cabo Rojo, we are collaborating with local and federal government, fisheries and academics to improve management of marine resources and reduce conflict among stakeholders.
Our work spans beyond Cabo Rojo. In 2012, after completing an assessment of natural protected areas on the island, we organized the first Puerto Rican Protected Areas Congress. This gathering of local and federal government agencies, academics and community groups fostered new relationships and facilitated the sharing of best practices and management activities.
On a larger scale, we're working to establish a regional ocean partnership with the U.S. Virgin Islands to facilitate marine management across borders. We're bringing together sometimes-unlikely allies - fishermen, academics, government workers and community members – to work toward sustainable management solutions in Caribbean waters.
Puerto Rico was the most recent government to join the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, the largest coordinated, multi-national conservation effort in the region. As part of the Conservancy-facilitated initiative, 9 countries and territories have committed to conserving at least 20 percent of their near shore marine environments by 2020. They've also committed to creating National Conservation Trust Funds. Puerto Rico has taken the challenge to heart and is moving forward alongside its colleagues in the Caribbean.
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