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Two Places of Unique Ecological Value in the World are Located in Puerto Rico

2012 October 30

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By Luz V. García

Now that Christmas is near and we will be posting our lights and decorations, I still remember going with my family one night to see the Parguera  Bay in Puerto Rico. My memory of that trip has never been forgotten, since I did not know what caused the water to sparkle when agitated.  I was mesmerized by the halo of silver glow left by the boat riding through the mangroves.  All I remembered is that the boat ride lasted 30 minutes and during those precious moments, I saw the water glowing like stars.

Many times we forget the unique environments of our native land.  Back then, I was not aware of the value of natural resources, especially the value of those unique natural resources. The Parguera Bay is also known as a bioluminescent bay. Why? Because in moonless nights if you navigate thru the mangroves zone in Lajas , the boat seems to be sliding over a silver floor.

The bioluminescence is caused by microorganisms living in water bodies where they emit light. The scientific name for this microorganism is dinoflagellate that needs to photosynthesize in order to survive. They can be found in salt water (oceans) –which has the term “Marine bioluminescence”–, but in the case of Puerto Rico,  they are located  in the bay zone.

In Puerto Rico, there are two locations with those bioluminescence microorganisms—one in the island of Vieques at Puerto Mosquito Bay and the other in La Parguera  in the town of Lajas. These specific microorganisms are so fragile that it is prohibited to swim in the bay.  In fact, the greater the conglomerate of these organisms, the greater and brighter the display of light produced. The ecosystem can be destroyed by polluting the waters or by the increase of housing development near the area. It is being said that the Mosquito bay in Vieques is considered the place with highest concentration of dinoflagelates in the WORLD.

I believe that in the mind of every child who has visited the place, it is still the memory of that water glowing as if the bay were a place where  stars are falling from the sky .

About the author:  Ms. Luz V. García M.E. is a physical scientist at EPA’s Division of Enforcement of Compliance Assistance. She is a four-time recipient of the EPA bronze medal, most recently in 2011 for the discovery of illegal pesticides entry at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in New York.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Gary Binderim permalink
    October 30, 2012

    Your story emphasizes what many have forgotten or have never known, that the earth is still a place of beauty and marvel and well worth preserving.

  2. Arushi Goel permalink
    October 30, 2012

    Really a good information.
    I have never heard of this place before.
    Now I wish to visit this place as soon as possible …………..!!!!!!!

  3. Raquel permalink
    October 30, 2012

    Correction: In Puerto Rico, there are three locations with bioluminescence microorganisms — Puerto Mosquito Bay in the island of Vieques, La Parguera in the town of Lajas, AND Laguna Grande in the town of Fajardo.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink
    November 3, 2012

    Thank you, Raquel. You are correct. We failed to mention Laguna Grande in Fajardo. Perhaps it will be the subject of a future blog.

  5. Jill permalink
    April 9, 2014

    I recently returned from a visit to the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera. You say that swimming is prohibited — yet we were encouraged by our tour guide to jump in the water (which we did). You also mention that pollution can destroy the organisms that make the bay glow. Our boat was gasoline fueled, which surely must be polluting the bay. Seems to me the local guides are complicit in destroying a major attraction that contributes to their livelihood and the local economy.

    Can you provide me with a link to the regulation that says that swimming is prohibited? I’d like to send it to my tour guide. Thank you.

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