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.