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Mona Island Drug Runner

Ship Grounding | Mona Island, Puerto Rico | August 2023

What Happened?

On August 31, 2023, while monitoring an active hawksbill and green sea turtle nesting beach, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) found and reported a 40-foot drug runner sailboat modified to operate as a semi-submersible (low profile vessel) grounded on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Sitting on the rocky southern shore of Mona Island, the vessel was grounded 160 feet from active sea turtle nesting beaches that had both adult turtles coming ashore to nest, as well as hatchlings emerging and making their way to the water. It was also located in the vicinity of several Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed coral species and their critical habitat.

What Were the Impacts?

The vessel was leaking diesel fuel and there was imminent danger to threatened and endangered sea turtles and corals listed under the ESA and their associated critical habitat. 

Remote and pristine, Mona Island is located approximately 42 miles west of the main island. Puerto Rico has designated Mona a Natural Reserve, managed by DNER, and the National Park Service designated Mona a U.S. Natural Landmark. With critical nesting beaches for sea turtles, critical habitat for endangered corals, a significant endemic biota, and important seabird rookery areas, Mona is perhaps the most environmentally sensitive area in Puerto Rico and considered the “the Galapagos of the Caribbean.”

What’s Happening Now?

On October 2, 2023 the natural resource— Trustees Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce (NOAA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) submitted a claim to the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) to fund an Emergency Restoration action to remove the vessel in order to avoid irreversible loss of natural resources, or prevent continuing danger of natural resources related to the submersible drug runner pollution event. On October 19th, the NPFC adjudicated the Trustees’ claim, providing funding for the Trustees to conduct the Emergency Restoration actions. After a weather delay, the Trustees’ contractors successfully removed the vessel the first week in November, thereby eliminating future discharges of oil and the continuing danger to natural resources. Further information can be found through the public notice.


Grounded low profile drug running vessel, Mona Isl, PR
Grounded low profile drug running vessel Mona Isl, PR

“The Trustees are pleased that they were able to take emergency restoration actions to remove the danger that this drug-running vessel posed to the threatened and endangered species on Mona island. The removal of the vessel assures that oil and oily debris from the vessel will not cause further harm to this unique and special island.”

Daniel Hahn
NOAA Regional Resource Coordinator


Daniel Hahn
NOAA Office of Response and Restoration 
St. Petersburg, FL
(727) 421-0724

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Last updated February 15, 2024