The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have formed a Caribbean Regional Ocean Partnership to coordinate planning for multiple uses of coastal, marine and other similar regions and identify appropriate areas for development that are less vulnerable to environmental impact, it was announced Friday.
In a statement from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and Puerto Rico’s sister agency, DNER chief Daniel J. Galán Kercadó said, "This initiative will foster the coordination with existing organizations and agencies in order to provide long-term sustainability, conservation and management of the regional ocean resources. It will also address relevant issues like climate change, conservation of natural resources, energy development, fisheries, navigation, pollution, tourism and interstate commerce."
Not only will the agreement, formalized in a memorandum of understanding signed by the heads of the two agencies, improve understanding of the region's oceans and coastal ecosystems, but it is meant to help effectively manage these resources across jurisdictional boundaries by improving communication, aligning priorities and enhancing resource-sharing.
“The formation of a regional ocean partnership between the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will allow our territories to collaboratively plan for the economic opportunities provided by our coastal and ocean resources and ensure the environmental sustainability of our resources for generations to come. We are confident that this endeavor will lead to our shared ocean resources remaining productive, healthy, and resilient for the people of our islands,” said DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes in the statement.
The Caribbean Regional Ocean Partnership is meant to evaluate and ensure that vulnerable resources are conserved, according to the statement. While uses increase, it will incorporate the best available information and technical tools in order to understand marine ecosystems and the way ocean use is impacting this region’s marine and coastal resources.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said he welcomed the partnership, “as it provides an opportunity for our territories to lay out a plan for economic advancement and opportunity utilizing the resources of both our oceans and coastal waters. The anticipated coordination between agencies and organizations will no doubt provide a road map for long term conservation, management and sustainability of the regional ocean resources.”