The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PR-DNER) is a well-established governmental agency that regulates and manages the use of terrestrial, marine and coastal environments with the main purpose of protecting and conserving these resources. Presently, DNER consists of several components that promote education, management, scientific research, projects associated with public interests, legal permits and representation, among others. This particular governmental entity has a major influential role in conservation and management in the island of Puerto Rico and adjacent islands (Vieques and Culebra).
On March 31, 2010, UPRSG CRA’s team met with four important members of PR-DNER directly involved in marine and coastal management (these include fisheries, coastal processes and coral reefs). Based on their expertise, we asked them the following crucial questions regarding research and information that is needed to improve conservation and management:
- What type of research or information is needed by DNER on a short (less than 5 years) or long (more than 5 years) term for effective management and conservation?
- What obstacles are presently hindering the development of research needed for the effective management and conservation?
Their responses were diverse and covered several areas regarding resource management:
- Identification and selection of species (particularly fish) that have a critical role in marine, coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Several important species were mentioned by the group; however, a special emphasis was made on the need for an assessment on the populations of these species and the socio-economic impact they may have on local communities.
- Applied sciences that help to better understand the impact of anthropogenic activities (especially sedimentation processes and coastal development) on coastal ecosystems. Non-point source pollution and sediment excavation are major concerns due to their effects along the Puerto Rican coastline.
- Identification of essential and critical habitats. No information currently exists on the habitats of important coral reef species, such as Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, in the surrounding waters of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
- Research that evaluates the human ecological aspect (social and economical) with regard to the status of certain species, particularly those belonging to recreational fisheries. The resilience capacity or the limit of adaptive change of communities frequently visited by tourists and fishermen also needs to be evaluated.
- Studies on improving ways of effectively and appropriately disseminating information to the general public in order to encourage conservation of our natural resources. This requires open communications among the local community and resource managers, which also entails a certain level of trust among the parties.
- Evaluations to determine effective strategies of management. Several measures taken to conserve and manage certain coastal regions should be assessed to ascertain the methods used and address those strategies that did not result in any improvement.
In general, this particular group emphasized research that incorporates an adaptive and ecosystem-based management approach. They also encouraged studies that helped characterize our ecosystems, notwithstanding the human component that directly affect these environments. Effectively disseminating information and learning from good-management skills was also considered essential for successful strategies in management and conservation.