EPA Plunges into San Juan Bay for Scientific Study

EPA’s 224-foot research flagship Ocean Survey Vessel, the OSV BOLD was working in the waters of Puerto Rico last week, conducting marine biology studies of the San Juan Bay to protect and improve the environment of the Caribbean. The San Juan Bay Estuary is the only tropical estuary to be included in EPA’s National Estuary Program.

"The waters around Puerto Rico possess some of the most beautiful marine and ocean life anywhere on Earth and EPA is using all its assets to keep it that way,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA regional administrator. "This water quality assessment is a great example of how EPA is investing in sound science and new technology to protect public health and our coastal waters.”

During OSV BOLD Caribbean operations this week, EPA scientists together with the San Juan Bay Estuary program and the University of Puerto Rico will conduct a bottom or “benthic” survey of portions along the San Juan Bay using technologies such as side-scan sonar, underwater photography and video cameras. EPA scientists will assess sea grass beds and coral reef, take samples of bottom sediment, perform water quality surveys, and examine sensitive reef habitats. These offshore habitats support a diverse assemblage of marine and estuarine fishes and invertebrates, some of which are valuable for recreational and commercial fishing.  The natural resources found in these areas are strongly dependant on the continued wellbeing of the estuary.

The OSV BOLD is equipped with state-of-the-art sampling, mapping, and analysis equipment including side scan sonar, underwater video, water sampling instruments, and sediment sampling devices, which scientists use in a wide variety of ocean monitoring activities. The vessel is a converted U.S. Navy T-AGOS class vessel and is 43 feet wide. The ship can house up to 18 scientists, 19 crew members and remain at sea for weeks as they collect water quality and sediment samples, fish, and other organisms. EPA divers working off the OSV BOLD monitor coral reefs, and other sensitive habitats for impacts from pollution. The OSV BOLD operates in the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

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