Author: David Dupre (---.sea.siemens.com)
Date: 03-22-07 12:41
I just got back from Culebra and I had a great time snorkling and being a beach bum. While I was there, the law banning smoking in public places (even open-air bars) went into effect. While I’m not a smoker, it seems a little kooky in light of all the other things it ignores. The thing that struck me the most was over-fishing of the reefs.
Of all the snorkeling I did on Culebra, I found the barrier reefs at Flamenco Beach the most interesting. The caves and swim-throughs in the coral at the beginning of the deeper water were awesome and I've never seen a wall of coral 70 feet high before. However, most areas of Flamenco Bay were practically devoid of reef life. The only exception to that is at the wave breaks. While I understand that most people don't like to snorkle 1/4 mile from shore near the edge of deep water with 5 foot waves crashing overhead and strong undertow, I found the reef at the wave breaks to be the most amazing on the island. While snorkling among the shallower soft-corals and turtle grass just inside of the barrier reef walls, I had the pleasure of seeing a 6 ft. nurse shark, 2 green turtles, 1 hawksbill turtle, a 50 lb. Jack, Spotted Eagle Rays, several barracudas, one lobster that wanted to fight, the largest stingray I've ever seen, and the type of reef fish I have come to expect from a healthy reef. It later occurred to me that this area was too shallow to scuba dive and who in their right mind would snorkel spear-fish here!
On the other hand, the coral walls and most other reef areas had very little life other than small blue tangs and small yellow-tail snapper. I saw a few Grouper and one large Snapper (yellow-tail only) in the Marine Sanctuary at Carlos Rosario but I saw none anywhere else. I saw no flounder anywhere and only one lone cuttlefish (I have only seen them in groups of 3 before).
I am an avid fisherman but I also feel that Culebra needs to declare a moratorium on its reef fishing/spearfishing in Flamenco, Carlos Rosario, Culebrita, Soldier’s Point, Dakity and other notable areas. In my opinion, Culebra’s reefs are its greatest asset and it should treat them as such. Culebra should take an active role in protecting its reefs and enforcing this protection. While I was on the Island, I observed a man cleaning small reef fish (blue tangs) at the campground, someone with a speared lobster, and a Sport-fishing boat catching fish in the Marine Sanctuary at Carlos Rosario. It appears that nothing is enforced by the DNR…
I am ashamed to admit that I brought my speargun with me ( I didn't use it).