The Boca Chica Coral Reef Lagoon comprises various ecosystems of great fragility, including coral reef, seagrass meadows, mangroves, sand and rubble flats, and beaches. The area lies within the Andrés Boca Chica Municipality (population 70,000-plus), a sprawling urban, commercial, industrial and tourist area. Less than 30 minutes from the capital city, it is known as Santo Domingo’s beach.
On paper, the lagoon environment has legal protection. But overfishing has damaged the lagoon’s environment and local people’s quality of life, and the coral is threatened by human trampling. The seagrass beds, which make up a significant portion of the lagoon, are generally in very good condition, but urgently need protection and management.
Working with our nonprofit partner Fundación Verde Profundo (FVP), this project will further both socioeconomic equity and responsible environmental stewardship.
The first step is to reduce fishing pressure, while ensuring that fishers can earn a living. The fishers are enthusiastic about participating in conservation and ecotourism and plan to form a Fishermen’s Ecotourism Co-op (FECOP). The coop will help restore the marine ecosystem, with an emphasis on cultivating and planting 1,000 mangrove seedlings. FVP has already planted 1,500 mangroves in the project site, with a survival rate of 82 percent. They are also protecting naturally occurring mangroves on the lagoon’s reef barrier and Los Pinos Island. FECOP members will patrol the area and enforce restrictions.
The group will also develop an alternative income stream from ecotourism. Fishers will learn how to be certified tourist guides, and will also get training in small business practices, rescue and first aid, and marine area enforcement. The Seacology grant will fund stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel and safety equipment; first aid kits; tour operator insurance; tourism permits; promotional consultation and materials; an e-marketing platform; and office equipment and supplies.