Coastal Treasures Define Western Puerto Rico

Marine ecosystems support the region’s communities and economy

Coastal Treasures Define Western Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
A diver explores the waters off the western coast of Puerto Rico, where shipwrecks, brilliant corals, colorful fish, and other wonders can be seen.
JP Zegarra

Puerto Rico’s west coast boasts spectacular marine wildlife, cultural treasures, and recreational activities that draw locals and tourists from around the world. The stunning shoreline supports fishing, surfing, diving, and businesses that form the backbone of the region’s economy. Corals, mangroves, undersea mountains, and other habitats host an array of animals, from manatees and fish to sea turtles and migrating humpback whales.

These same resources once benefited the native Taino people who settled the region. Yet modern threats are taking a toll. Sewage discharges, poorly planned development, and pollution put the environment and community at risk.

The first step toward protecting and conserving these important assets is taking stock of what makes western Puerto Rico special.

Puerto Rico
R9 Studios FL/Flickr Creative Commons

Mangroves: These plants form a transition zone between land and sea, offering shelter for animals and helping protect the coast from erosion and storm surge.

Puerto Rico
JP Zegarra

Corals: Some of the island’s healthiest corals thrive in the shallows and the depths off western Puerto Rico, providing homes for fish, sharks, and other wildlife.

Puerto Rico
Javier Gill

Seamount: The Bajo de Sico underwater mountain is a wildlife mecca, frequented by whales and by endangered Nassau grouper that gather for spawning rituals.

Puerto Rico
Orian Tzadik

Fishing: The west coast is Puerto Rico’s top commercial fishing spot for species such as queen snapper, Caribbean spiny lobster, and this red hind.

Puerto Rico
A drawing by Puerto Rico’s Indigenous people adorns a cave wall on Isla de Mona. Some of the area’s cave paintings date to the 13th century.
Serge Aucoin, Wikimedia Commons

Culture: Native Taino left behind archaeological sites, including the only known cave art depicting Christian missionaries’ arrival to the New World

Puerto Rico
Pichón Duarte

Recreation: Locals and tourists from around the world enjoy fishing, snorkeling, diving, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and other activities supported by the region’s diverse ecology.

The Pew Charitable Trusts works in partnership with fishers, business and community leaders, scientists, local fishery managers, and nonprofit organizations to conserve coastal resources, preserve and promote cultural heritage, and effectively manage ecosystems that will support wildlife, recreational opportunities, and the regional economy for generations to come. 

Holly Binns is a project director and David Ortiz is a manager with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to conserve marine life in the United States.

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Getty Images

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