Dear Mr. Bolton:
This letter is signed by several representatives of social network groups of environmentally aware fishers in Puerto Rico. Our group, Pesca, Playa y Ambiente (Fishing, Beaches and the Environment) has nearly 500 members on Facebook, principally recreational anglers and recreational spearfishers. We are writing to you for the first time because we need your help to solve a very...
Dear Mr. Bolton:
This letter is signed by several representatives of social network groups of environmentally aware fishers in Puerto Rico. Our group, Pesca, Playa y Ambiente (Fishing, Beaches and the Environment) has nearly 500 members on Facebook, principally recreational anglers and recreational spearfishers. We are writing to you for the first time because we need your help to solve a very serious problem affecting the fishing community in Puerto Rico.
The problem can be stated very simply: in essence, there is no enforcement of fisheries regulations in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources has a Ranger Corps that is, by law, dedicated to enforcement of all natural resource laws and regulations. However, the reality of the situation is very different from the theory.
Our coasts and reefs are plagued with illegal fish traps, many made of plastic boxes with small holes which catch juvenile fish. Use of Clorox and other toxics in our reefs, rivers and estuaries to catch fishing, lobsters as fishing method. Beach seines are used improperly around the island, killing everything they catch since they are not emptied in the water as the regulations require. Gillnets are illegally used by poachers in every river, coastal lagoon (including the Natural Reserves) and reservoir, killing protected tarpon, undersize snook, largemouth bass and peacock bass, among others. Unattended trammel nets for lobsters kill significant numbers of sea turtles on the west coast. Recreational fishermen openly sell their catch, flooding the market and affecting the ability of commercial fishers to earn their living. These are but a few examples of the fisheries chaos.
When we observe fisheries violations, we call the Ranger hotline (787-724-5700), and nearly always receive excuses instead of action. Our resource is being destroyed (catch has been steadily declining since the 1970’s), and the enforcement arm of the Department in charge of protecting and conserving it urgently requires a profound reorientation to address this issue. The Ranger Corps has maritime units, which concentrate on boating safety (not fisheries) law enforcement at sea. This must change. However, there are no corresponding reservoir units, river units or coastal lagoon units. Rivers, reservoirs and coastal lagoons are designated by law exclusively as recreational fisheries habitats but no Rangers are designated to protect them from poaching.
It is our hope that your agency can intercede in favor of the fishing community in Puerto Rico and urge the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to undertake a complete (federally supervised) restructuring of the Ranger Corps so that it may begin to address the serious issue of enforcement of fisheries regulations in Puerto Rico. It is time to end the chaos.
If you require more information, feel free to contact Lic. Israel Umpierre, administrator of Pesca, Playa y Ambiente, at: email@example.com.