A honey of a project saves mangroves in the Dominican Republic
Much of our recent work has focused on mangrove trees or bees, so it was only a matter of time before they joined forces in a project – and in addition to ecological benefits, produced some delicious mangrove honey! In the Dominican Republic, Seacology will support a sustainable beekeeping operation and invest in ecotourism. These efforts will help protect one of the country’s most diverse wetland habitats – coastal mangrove forests that protect communities from storm damage, are crucial to the health of the reefs, and absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide.
El Tablón Ecological Park, on the country’s northern coast, showcases many of the ecosystems found in the Dominican Republic. The area is home to all four mangrove species that grow in the country, and also contains lush tropical rainforest, coastal forest, sand dunes, and estuaries. Coral reefs and seagrass beds can be found in the nearby waters. Because it borders the Sosua Marine Reserve, El Tablón has legal protection and is recognized as a wetland of international significance.
Unfortunately, the area’s ecological importance hasn’t protected it from overfishing, deforestation, poaching, waste-dumping, and water pollution. These practices threaten many species, including coastal and sea birds, bull sharks, and Antillean manatees. It also hurts local fisheries and the families whose livelihoods depend on them.
To fight these growing threats, the local fishing community organized to protect and restore the park. The Sosua Fishermen’s Association and local NGO Fundación Ecológica Maguá are partnering with Seacology to protect 66 acres for 15 years. Their ambitious plans include restoring nearby coral reefs, growing and planting 1,200 mangrove seedlings, and building nesting structures for native birds.
In support of this locally led conservation, Seacology’s grant will help establish a beekeeping enterprise, beginning with 40 hives next to the mangrove forest. Run by members of the fishing community, this business will serve several purposes. As an alternative source of income for fishing families, it will take some pressure off the area’s fish populations. The honey produced will be marketed as “Sosua Mangrove Honey,” increasing local awareness of the importance of protecting the mangrove ecosystem.
The project will also strengthen local ecotourism, urgently needed in the DR because the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated international travel. Community members will create walking paths, a wildlife-viewing area, informational signs, a gathering center, and a waste-collection center. They will buy kayaks and paddleboards to use for visitor tours and surveillance of the area. They will receive training on conservation and how to educate visitors, and share this information with local schools and businesses.
The project is generously supported by 11th Hour Racing, a Rhode Island-based organization that focuses on the environmental challenges facing the sailing community and marine industries. It supports innovative, collaborative, and systemic change that will improve the health of our oceans.
The group decided to support our work at El Tablón after the successful completion of another Seacology initiative it funded, on Kenya’s Giriama Island. In a recent episode of the Around The Buoy podcast, 11th Hour Racing’s Michelle Carnevale discusses Seacology’s unique approach to conservation, our projects they’ve supported, and why they love our work. (The Seacology discussion starts at about 32 minutes into the podcast.)