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Dominican Republic

Boca Chica

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Conservation benefit: Protection of a 13-acre marine area including mangroves, seagrass, and coral reef for 15 years

Community benefit: Support of new Fishermen’s Ecotourism Co-op, including training and equipment

Date Approved: 06.2020

Ecotourism

This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Ocean

This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Seagrass

This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

The Boca Chica Coral Reef Lagoon includes 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. Trampling by people threatens the coral. 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 environmental stewardship.

The first step is to reduce fishing pressure, while ensuring that fishers can earn a living. The fishers are enthusiastic about conservation and ecotourism, and plan to form a Fishermen’s Ecotourism Co-op. The co-op 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. Fishermen will patrol the area and enforce restrictions.

The group will also develop 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.

Project Updates

April 2022

Seacology staff visited the project in late March, 2022. We witnessed a stunning contrast between the protected area and just outside, where storms and rising sea levels make the waves literally lap at the edges of coastal infrastructure. A group of schoolkids were visiting the site too – young local athletes participating in Play for the Mangroves; they attended a presentation about mangroves and their importance, then hit the water with pool noodles and snorkeling masks to see first-hand the teaming life underwater. After some conditioning drills on the beach, the kids received volleyball and baseball equipment, as well as uniforms. Their excitement about what they learned and experienced was contagious.

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March 2022

After collaboration with the members of the local fishing community, who continue to be involved in the ecotourism and conservation activities at Boca Chica, it has been decided that a formalized fishermen’s coop will not established. Due to the continued erosion of habitat at Boca Chica, project partner Fundacion Verde Profundo is implementing a Green Breakwater Program, using a proven mangrove replanting technique to bolster protection of the area. Seacology staff plan to visit the project in late March, 2022.

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February 2022

Three recent tropical storms damaged many of the mangroves planted thus far, but our nonprofit partner resumed planting after hurricane season was over, in November 2021. They are using new techniques to avoid this type of loss in the future. They have hired fishermen’s co-op members to build 16 ReefScaper domes, which support improvement of the marine ecosystem. FVP staff and fishermen are also building a prototype 12-foot plywood and fiberglass canoe (pirogue). Fishermen and volunteers participated in five mangrove cleanups.

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June 2021

Two fishermen are providing stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and kayak experiences, such as paddling at sunrise and exploring mangroves. The tours include information about mangroves, seagrass, and coral, and the overall project. Youth in the fishers co-op are very excited about getting SUPs, canoes, pedal boats, a sailboat, and masks and fins for snorkeling. An experienced person is now managing rentals and excursions, and co-op members will get business management training soon. There are plans to buy locally built 12-foot plywood and fiberglass pirogues, which will be competitively priced compared to imported canoes. The fishermen will help build the canoes.

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January 2021

Project partner NGO Fundación Verde Profundo (FVP) has focused on connecting with organizations that offer training for co-op development. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this has not been easy. Nevertheless, FVP has held 11 meetings with the fishermen’s association, sharing documents and videos to help them understand the nature and goals of a co-op. FVP is also receiving guidance from the Dominican Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture. National mangrove expert Pedro Martinez gave excellent feedback to FVP and helped to identify an area suitable for a mangrove nursery at La Matica Mangrove Island. Fishermen’s association members participated in a mangrove clean-up with young volunteers.

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