An analysis of issues affecting the management of coral reefs and the associated capacity building needs in Puerto Rico
The objective of this assessment is to present an analysis of the issues that affect capacity to implement Puerto Rico’s Coral Reef Management Priorities (NOAA, 2010) and Local Action Strategies (LAS) for Coral Reef Conservation 2011-2015 Puerto Rico (NOAA, 2011), and an associated set of recommendations that could lead to an action strategy to build adaptive capacity to address current management objectives. Commissioned by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, the consultant team facilitated a qualitative, collaborative and participatory approach to gain perspectives of resource users, managers and funders, and upper level administrators who fund coral reef management.
Much of what we have found regarding capacity to manage coral reefs in Puerto Rico is positive and serves as a base upon which increased adaptive capacity can be built. Over roughly the past 40 years, capacity to manage coral reefs has been building as evidenced by the range of activities featured in a coral reef management timeline developed as part of this assessment (Appendix C). Currently, with new leadership in the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), there is a revived sense of hope within the Commonwealth to build capacity for improved management of natural systems. The Puerto Rico DNER Ranger Corps (hereafter DNER Ranger Corps) is an enforcement unit that provides an outstanding basis for building enforcement capacity, and the efficacy of the DNER Ranger Corps to successfully implement its mandate to enforce DNER rules and regulations would be enhanced through an external assessment and reform. There are increasing numbers of natural and social scientists covering a variety of disciplines in Puerto Rico, growing academic and research capacity, exploring interdisciplinary research and becoming capable of generating transformative research. There is a growing number of NGOs, coalitions and informal groups of resource users that are working at multiple scales, growing a civil society capacity base. Federal agency investments to improve management of coral reefs have increased over the past 10 years, adding significant capacity for improved management. However, as described in this report, there are clear gaps, barriers and impediments to building adaptive capacity for improved management, the context of which is increasingly complex, dynamic, uncertain and emergent, and there is no clear path forward. There are highly significant actions that we believe, if accomplished, would have a major and visible impact signaling clearly that there is momentum for improved coral reef management in Puerto Rico.