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Dominican Republic

El Limón Lagoon

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Conservation benefit: Enforcement of a 2,676-acre protected area consisting of lagoon, mixed vegetation, and mangrove habitat for 15 years

Community benefit: Repair and improvement of ecotourism infrastructure

Date Approved: 06.2019

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.

El Limón Lagoon is part of a system of lagoons on the coastal plain between the Cordillera Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. A short channel links this shallow lagoon to the ocean. It is a Wildlife Reserve, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and is in the process of being declared a Ramsar wetland of international importance. However, the land nearby is mostly private, and actual protection is minimal. Around the lagoon, people fish, graze cattle, raise fish, and grow coconuts and rice.

In areas where fresh and salt water mix, there are mangroves that are critical to the health of the lagoon. Red mangrove is dominant, though there are also white, black, and button mangroves. A total of 75 species of birds (several classified as vulnerable) are found around the lagoon; five are endemic to Hispaniola. Nearby beaches are resting places for leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

The community of Los Guineos, on the southern end of the lagoon, has a population of around 200. Many people make a living by fishing, and some have served as unofficial rangers. To increase protection of the lagoon, they have committed to eliminate the felling of mangrove and dragon trees, prevent bird poaching, and improve protection for turtles.

The community will use a Seacology grant to support ecotourism, which will generate sustainable income for locals and improve monitoring. There is some kayak tourism at Los Guineos, but the facilities – jetty, visitor waiting and resting area, and restrooms – need repairs. Local fishermen’s and tour guide organizations will lead the repair work. The Ministry of the Environment has pledged to help develop a plan for better enforcement. CEBSE, led by 2018 Seacology Prize recipient Patricia Lamelas, will be our nonprofit partner.

Project Updates

June 2021

A new national government led to changes of leadership and staffing in the Ministry of the Environment, which has not yet issued permits for several activities. This is holding up the nature guide training course, as well as construction of the jetty and repair of the restroom. Director of Protected Areas Dr. José Mateo told Seacology Field Representative Leida Buglass that by July, the problems with approvals would be resolved. Project partner CEBSE staff has also written to the Ministry of the Environment about the delays.

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January 2021

Despite national COVID-19 restrictions, this project has slowly but steadily achieved most of the deliverables as scheduled. Signage has been completed, and electricity was installed at the surveillance and control center. Nature guide training is in process. The access road to the site has been repaired, a small jetty is being built, and repair of the restroom is planned. A kayak rack has been constructed, and a roof for the tour boat has been installed. The large resorts at nearby Boca Chica will be an excellent source of visitors once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

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June 2020

All protected areas in the DR, including El Limón, have been closed to recreational and commercial activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since most businesses and warehouses are closed, the Guineos community group has not been able to get quotes for the improvements. Meanwhile, the group of fishermen from Guineos is actively patrolling the area to monitor for illegal fishing and disturbance of birds.

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February 2020

A group of Seacology staff and board members visited the site in January. A local filmmaker accompanied them and produced this short video about the project.

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December 2019

Project partner CEBSE met with the community in early December to finalize project components and objectives. The community group is cleaning up the lagoon because the channel that feeds it is clogged with invasive plants, limiting navigation. It will soon work on the installation of large signs around the lagoon identifying important areas, a training course for guides, equipment for bird watching, uniforms for guides, roofs for and painting of guide boats, support for maintenance of the access road, and other infrastructure and equipment.

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