Shipwreck and Debris Removal from Las Croabas, Icacos, and Palominos, Puerto Rico

A derelict vessel partially-submerged in water.
One of five derelict vessels that was removed as part of this project. (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico DNER)
A washed-up derelict vessel.
One of five derelict vessels that was removed as part of this project. (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico DNER)
Marine debris, especially old glass bottles, found in Fajardo Bay.
Marine debris found in Fajardo Bay. (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico DNER)

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources teamed up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program which assessed and removed five derelict vessels in nearshore waters of Fajardo Bay, and used information from additional removal events to develop prevention strategies for the area.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Florida & the Caribbean

Project Dates: August 2016 - December 2017

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant, and in partnership with Marine Cargo PR LLC and the municipality of Fajardo, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) helped to protect and restore coral reef and seagrass habitats by removing five derelict vessels in the nearshore waters near Las Croabas and Playa Sardinera, in Fajardo Bay. DNER and partners at the United States Coast Guard, the municipality of Luquillo, and NOAA also conducted education and outreach activities by hosting stakeholder coordination meetings that helped to address abandoned and derelict vessel problems, and hosted a cost-free nautical chart workshop that taught attendees how to interpret and use a nautical chart.

What is the project and why is it important?
Abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) are a problem in Fajardo Bay, Puerto Rico, mostly due to owners that have abandoned their vessels for various reasons. They create both serious navigational hazards and ecological threats. This large form of marine debris can scar and damage surrounding habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, as well as create fields of debris as the hulls, riggings, insulation, and other materials deteriorate. ADVs can also contain hazardous materials such as oil, paints, and lubricants, which can leak into and pollute the surrounding environment.

This project aimed to remove five derelict vessels from Las Croabas, Icacos, and Palominos, in Fajardo Bay. Through this project, approximately 15 tons of debris was removed from the marine environment. This removal also enabled the passive and active restoration of any affected coral reef and seagrass habitats, which are monitored by DNER after removal of the vessels. Additionally, DNER is conducted marine debris removal events at two sites located within marine reserves. The data collected from the removal events was used to identify the main sources of marine debris in the area, which helped to develop prevention strategies.

To prevent future abandonment of vessels and marine litter in the community, DNER is also conducted education and outreach activities with local groups. DNER staff used community support to develop an outreach campaign that educated tourists and visitors of the Northeast Reserves about the impacts of derelict vessels. DNER is also hosted a cost-free workshop, in conjunction with NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard staff, where attendees learned how to interpret and use nautical charts. This knowledge helped boaters avoid protected natural resources present in Fajardo, and can prevent vessel groundings and future abandonment of derelict vessels.

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A washed-up derelict vessel.
One of five derelict vessels that was removed as part of this project. (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico DNER)
Marine debris, especially old glass bottles, found in Fajardo Bay.
Marine debris found in Fajardo Bay. (Photo Credit: Puerto Rico DNER)