|Title||Model management plan to optimize production of marine tropical systems|
|Authers||James P. McVey and Dallas E. Alston, Alexis Cabarcas and Edgardo Ojeda|
|Citation||Bull. Fish. Res. Agen. supplement No. 19,155-166, 2007|
NOAA, the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program, and other federal, state, and private partners are proposing to develop model management plans suitable for tropical marine ecosystems. In this paper we offer a new ecosystem-based management scenario using aquaculture to optimize value and function of tropical island ecosystems. Experience in Puerto Rico offers an excellent opportunity to combine several management plans while maintaining the flexibility to work with user groups to manage and optimize sustainable production from marine tropical systems. Puerto Rico has several tropical ecosystems available for study ranging from the high energy coastlines found on the north coast to low energy, mangrove shorelines on the southwest coast. Coral reefs are prevalent in the east, south, and west. All Puerto Rico coastal communities have seen a decline in fishery resources and habitats with subsequent decline in monetary value. A new approach for coastal resource management is needed.
The key element in coral reef management is that large scale commercial removal of reef resources has proven basically unachievable on island coral reef systems and larger coral reef systems. There are many species but not a lot of any one species. Commercial operators travel farther to find commercial levels of catch until the reef is exhausted and out of balance. Our premise is that the reef should be maintained with minimum impact to foster tourism and some subsistence fisheries to keep populations intact to maintain ecological balance of the reef and possibly provide broodstock for offshore aquaculture. Proper placement of offshore aquaculture in water over 30 m and 2-5 km offshore, away from coral reef structures has minimal environmental impact. With guidance from coral reef experts and aquaculturists, island communities can decide to combine marine protected areas, habitat protection, tourist scenic reefs, rigorous fisheries management and enforcement, and innovative marketing to optimize the value of coral reef systems. Technology exists to implement these management tools. Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, offers an excellent location to demonstrate this assumption.
Culebra has attracted international attention by petitioning the government to establish a “no-take” marine reserve. The subsequent increase of reef fish is a clear demonstration of a grassroots effort to manage local fisheries resources. By combining the knowledge of recognized coral reef experts with innovative offshore aquaculture techniques, Culebra community leaders have the opportunity to optimize the value from their coral reef systems and to protect their marine resources. Recent advances in the development of offshore, submerged, marine aquaculture technology for island locations provides a new tool to optimize production of marine tropical systems. A panel of reef specialists, enforcement agents, aquaculturists, and environmentalists would advise the community and develop a management plan to optimize scenic reefs, promote rigorous fisheries management and enforcement, and propose innovative marketing strategies.