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Ecological importance


The decline in population density of marine organisms of fishing value throughout the Caribbean region during recent decades has been widely documented.


In the case of Puerto Rico, the landing of reef fish has decreased by  5 million pounds during 1979 to less than 2 million pounds during 1993.


The degradation of coastal areas as a result of unplanned development and uncontrolled tourist activities are other main causes of the decrease in fishing productivity.


Studies carried out on marine resources in the nature reserve demonstrated that there are marked differences in the structure of fish and coral communities in the areas closest to the coast compared to those more distant, which suggest that environmental stresses have arisen from anthropogenic origin that has deteriorated reef communities.


Research confirms that the decline in reef fish populations has contributed to the degradation of reef communities.


In addition to the ecological value of this area, there are other reasons that justify its designation:


- presence of critical habitats of endangered sea turtle species


- high recreational value (e.g. diving, fishing, boating)


- the area is a natural laboratory for the development of scientific research and marine education activities


- presence of healthy habitats important for the designation of special protection areas for the propagation of fish and coral species ("no take zones")


- the increasing threat due to uncontrolled recreational activities (e.g. anchoring on reefs, spear fishing, diving) in some localities (e.g. Playa Carlos Rosario, north coast of Cayo Luis Peña)


- recent increases in activities such as deforestation of sloping land near the coast


- possible contamination risks associated with the operation of the municipal landfill in Bahía Tamarindo 


- the value as a nursery area for fish and other species of commercial value

The designation of the Canal Luis Pena Natural Reserve is important to:


1) protect and manage coral reefs and other associated systems to ensure their long-term viability and maintain the genetic diversity of the species that inhabit them


2) protect depleted populations of reef fish, including commercially important species, and endangered sea turtles, as well as habitats critical to their survival


3) protect coral communities in an excellent ecological state and with high recreational and aesthetic value


4) prevent the negative impacts of human activities that occur within and outside the Reserve


5) designate areas for the propagation of fish, corals and other groups of organisms under the concept of "no take zones"


6) facilitate the interpretation of marine systems for conservation, education, research, and low-impact tourism purposes


7) accommodate and regulate through an appropriate co-management system the widest possible spectrum of human activities compatible with the main objectives of the Reserve


8) promote marine conservation through education and the development of low-impact tourism activities


9) provide for scientific research and technical training of scientists, students, management officers, technical staff and volunteers through a co-management program


10) provide for the monitoring of the environmental effects of human activities, including the direct and indirect effects of the development and use practices of the lands adjacent to the Reserve


11) provide participation in the planning, administration and management of the Reserve to the grassroots communities, Culebra Island Fishermen's Association, divers, Municipal Administration, Culebra Conservation and Development Authority, Federal Fisheries and Wildlife Service, academia, citizen volunteers, non-governmental organizations and any other interest group, through a co-management model.


In addition to the reasons, there are various problems of human origin, which could threaten the ecological integrity of the region.


According to Hernández Delgado, the main human problems identified on the island of Culebra and that could directly or indirectly affect the Reserve include:


1)runoff and sedimentation associated with clearing for road construction


2) eutrophication andreduction in water transparencyassociated with the discharge of untreated used water and sedimented runoff


3)unplanned residential and tourist developmentin ecologically sensitive areas (e.g. Punta Melones, Bahía Tarja, Bahía Tamarindo)


4)possible leachate flow coming from the municipal landfill


5)recreational activities out of control and without any regulation (e.g. irresponsible harpoon fishing, collection of aquarium organisms, diving, navigation, anchoring, inappropriate establishment and operation of anchor buoys)


6)collection of organisms, corals and pieces of reef for the marine aquarium market


7)historical destruction of reefs by military practicesbombing 



Designation document (DRNA, 1999)

Management Plan 2008

Hernández-Delgado, E.A. 2004. Analysis of the state of resources and the environmental situation of the Canal Luis Peña Natural Reserve, Culebra, P.R. Technical Report submitted to the Conservation and Development Authority of Culebra, Culebra, PR. August 2, 2004. 133 pp.

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