Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Mangrove Lagoon in Salt River is home to millions of these bioluminescent creatures named Dinoflagellates.
Tours are given of the bioluminescent bay in Vieques. These operations are likely the majority of the economic base of the island.
Water quality in Puerto Mosquito is monitored 24 hours a day to help prevent damage to the fragile ecosystem of the bay.
On February 4, 2016 the Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, which is chaired by Senator Sanes, held a meeting to discuss issues in the Salt River area, specifically in the area of Mangrove Lagoon, the bioluminescent bay.
Testifiers were invited and were asked to discuss the following topics:
- Status of Marine Research and Educational Center project
- Federal mandate to avoid building in 100-yr floodplain / status of Salt River Bay's floodplain classification
- Potential national Park Service failure to adhere to their mandate of protection and preservation of the land contained within the park.
- Status of demolition of abandoned hotel on Hemer's Peninsula.
- Possibility of proposed projects leading to dredging of the bay and the potential impact on/destruction of bioluminescent creatures living in the bay.
- Status of lawsuit.
- Multiple testifiers spoke to their concern about the close proximity of the Outpost building being built by the National Park Service to the adjacent bioluminescent bay.
- There was discussion of the project not being permitted, inadequate environmental safeguards employed during construction, and the building's location within a floodplain.
- DPNR's Coastal Zone Management division explained that there were no permits issued to the National Park Service for construction nor any type of dredging at this time.
- Demolition work on Hemmer's Peninsula was done with DPNR's authorization.
- The environmental uniqueness of the bioluminescent bay was highly discussed, as well as the potential for greater marketing of the bay as a unique tourist attraction.
- Mark Martin Bras of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust explained that the work that is being considered near the bay, would never be allowed to occur anywhere near the bioluminescent bay in Vieques. Strict rules and regulations do not allow such practices.
- Joel Tutein of the National Park Service explained the intent of the construction of the Outpost and stated that all alternative locations had already been vetted and found unworth or were unattainable.
Senator Sanes has contacted Mr. Nikolao I. Pula, Jr., Director of the Office of Insular Affairs of the Dept. of the Interior. The senator has asked for an update on the current state of finances pertaining to all of the National Park projects on St. Croix, in particular, the Salt River projects.
Senator Sanes has also requested that an environmental investigation be launched in reference to the Salt River construction. The goal is to learn whether the work is being done properly when it comes to environmental precautions, as well as whether the project should be done in this area at all.
It is in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands to protect this natural wonder to ensure that it continues to be available for education and enjoyment for generations to come.