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Important NOAA grant for Puerto Rican and U.S. community organizations

A grant to to restore the marine-coastal systems of the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay. What great news to celebrate Earth Day!

The Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust (VCHT), and the Society for the Marine Environment (“Sociedad Ambiente Marino”, SAM), two Puerto Rican community organizations, along with The Ocean Foundation (TOF) and Merello Marine Consulting (MMC), have received a grant from NOAA (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for a four-year ecological restoration project that will target the coastal marine habitats within Puerto Mosquito, also known as the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques. It is located within the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay Nature Reserve (VBBNR) which is co-managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and the VCHT. The project seeks to restore the mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs of the Bioluminescent Bay.

This is one of 33 projects that have received grants to increase coastal resilience to climate change and extreme weather events. These grants are part of “Climate Ready Coasts”—one of the major initiatives under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

NOAA cites this allocation of funds as “a transformational moment for the nation’s coasts, as this is an investment in resilience never seen before. The coast continues to face great challenges, which are expected to grow. These funds are being used to help communities implement projects designed to make the coast more resilient.”

Samuel Suleimán-Ramos, CEO of SAM, noted that this comprehensive restoration approach to marine-coastal systems, "has created an iconic moment for the Caribbean. This is the first time that the ecological restoration of all three ecosystems are being addressed together, in a community-based project, with the support of DNER & NOAA”

Edwin A. Hernandez-Delgado, PhD, principal research scientist of the SAM and certified ecological restoration practitioner, emphasized the fact that "this is the first time that a coastal restoration project focuses not just on the empirical natural science, but on the socio-economic aspects, incorporating atraditionally underserved community in a diversity of jobs, activities, education and outreach. We will integrate socio-ecology and marine restoration science. This will become a model community-based project for other Caribbean islands that will foster a participatory blue economy through hands-on coastal restoration.

Ben Scheelk, Program Officer for the Blue Resilience Initiative of The Ocean Foundation indicated, "We are deeply honored and humbled by the support from NOAA and the Puerto Rico DNER for this groundbreaking "seascape" restoration project at the Bioluminescent Bay. Community-led, this project will help make the world's brightest bioluminescent bay a bright spot in the world of marine conservation by increasing the Bay's climate resilience while creating local jobs and new opportunities for sustainable economic development in Vieques."

"This project represents great news for Vieques and its bioluminescent bay. It has been designed and will be implemented by community members. It will create jobs. Training will be provided to community members for mangrove, seagrass and coral reef restoration work. In addition, the project includes an outreach component aimed at local students, teachers, fishers, tour operators and community sectors," said Lirio Márquez D'Acunti, Executive Director of the VCHT.


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