A new boating awareness campaign encourages community dialogue and educational outreach to promote reef-friendly behavior.
As the home of beautiful, sandy beaches and clear blue water, it is no surprise that Puerto Rico has a thriving boating community. While recreational boating is popular, however, boater safety and awareness is an ongoing issue. Today, local resource managers struggle to accommodate leisure activities and tourism while protecting the coast and the delicate ecosystems that thrive there.
To tackle this issue, Antares Ramos— NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program liaison based in San Juan—recently launched a boating awareness campaign. By organizing community dialogues and educational outreach, she hopes to educate both the recreational and management sides on what the other identifies as key concerns.
Ramos recently hosted the campaign's first community roundtable with representatives from the local U.S. Coast Guard office, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and the boating community. Participants discussed the removal of abandoned vessels, setting a clear system for identifying shallow areas, regulating noise levels, the use of mooring buoys, and other topics.
In addition to creating forums for community dialogues, an important part of the campaign is its Anchor Awareness project, which educates boaters on how to avoid damaging coral reefs when anchoring. Anchoring on a reef can break or dislodge corals, causing lasting damage. Furthermore, a poorly placed anchor can damage associated habitats, such as seagrass beds, on which marine life depends.
As the boater awareness campaign takes hold, Ramos hopes that Puerto Rico's coral reef managers and the island's boating community will continue conversations and efforts to reduce the impact of boating activities on the territory's coral reefs.