Saving the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world
Puerto Mosquito bioluminescent bay is considered the brightest and most pristine in the world. Its conservation is part of our mission. Since its founding the VCHT has been involved in scientific and technical work supporting its conservation. We assist the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, as co managers of the reserve, in erosion and sedimentation control, water quality monitoring and dinoflagellate counts.
The Cause of Bioluminescence In The Water
The cause of bioluminescence in the bay is due to an abundance of an organism called “dinoflagellates” in the bay’s water.
The warm-water ecosystem that the bay creates, with a narrow opening to the open ocean, generates an ideal habitat for dinoflagellates to live in abundance. The nutrient content of the bay also allows the dinoflagellates to survive and flourish. The bioluminescence, created by the dinoflagellates, is actually the organism’s natural defense mechanism, in which the dinoflagellates use their light to ward off predators.
This is why, when the water around the dinoflagellates is disturbed, they create light. Without the dinoflagellates, the bay would not be able to glow and shine.
The Cultural Significance to Vieques
The island of Vieques was, for decades, home to a United States Navy base and used as a bombing range and munitions storage and disposal facility. After years of protesting, the bombing ended and resulted in the removal of the base. The land was converted into a wildlife refuge that is home to the Puerto Mosquito Bay.
The glowing bay is a major tourist attraction that provides economic and scientific value to the island. In 2017 Hurricane Maria devastated the Bay as heavy rains destroyed many of the mangroves along its shore. The drastic changes were hard on the dinoflagellate population but, with time, the populations have grown back.
Vieques is the biggest protected wildlife refuge of the Caribbean and Puerto Mosquito Bay provides reefs teeming with with a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Our Work And Research In Mosquito Bay
VCHT conducts research on the bioluminescence of Puerto Mosquito Bay, specifically focusing on the bioluminescence levels and dinoflagellates abundances.
The trust works on protecting the area through its Mangrove Project which is developed with funding from ConPRmetidos, Hispanic Federation, 11th Hour Racing, The Ocean Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and our members and friends, in particular, artist Lulu Atkin. The mangroves are along the mouth of the Puerto Mosquito Bay and protect the Pyrodinium bahamense bloom from washing out into the sea. Four species of mangrove are grown through the project, Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove), Avicennia germinans (black mangrove), Laguncularia racemosa (white mangrove) and Conocarpus erectus (button mangrove). Rhizophora are cultivated using an innovative protocol designed by VCHT biologist, Viequense Erick Bermúdez Carambot: under inundation, salinity and nutrient conditions that emulate those found in the Puerto Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay. The nursery is powered by photovoltaic energy and serves as a demonstration, training, and educational resource for other VCHT programs such as MANTA and The Wizards of Nature.
As a community organization, VCHT provides educational support for the youth in the area through its MANTA and The Wizards of Nature programs. Year-round outreach to all local schools bridges deficiencies/gaps of the government educational system in the area of sciences with non-formal environmental education that includes field research, citizen’s science and outreach.