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Dominican Republic

El Tablón Ecological Park

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Conservation benefit: Protection of a 66-acre area consisting of lagoon, mixed vegetation, and mangrove habitat for 15 years

Community benefit: Mangrove nursery and planting, bird feeders and nesting structures, apiculture facilities, and infrastructure and equipment for ecotourism

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.

Human activities – overfishing, waste dumping, deforestation, water pollution, and poaching – have badly damaged the diverse ecosystems of El Tablón Ecological Park. This project will both protect the park’s unique ecosystems and provide income to local people.

This amazing area contains tropical rainforest, coastal forest, sand dunes, estuaries, and mangroves; coral reefs are nearby. All four of the Dominican Republic’s mangrove species grow in the area. Various threatened species include many aquatic and coastal birds, bull sharks, and the Antillean manatee. The park is a wetland of international significance, and has legal protection because it borders the Sosua Marine Reserve.

Community members know the importance of restoring the healthy mangroves and reefs that their livelihoods depend on. They also recognize the area’s great potential for sustainable ecotourism and aquaculture and have already restored some coral reef.

Members of the Sosua Fishermen’s Association have agreed to maintain, watch over, and protect the park. They will manage a mangrove nursery to propagate about 1,200 seedlings of all four mangrove species, and plant them in a five-acre area. New nesting structures will help the park’s birds. They will also launch a beekeeping facility, producing honey and wax for local markets. Community members will manage the apiculture station, which will initially have 40 honeybee boxes. They will brand the honey as “Sosúa Mangrove Honey” and sell it to visitors, community members, supermarkets, and hotels.

After these activities, community members will move on to revitalizing the area for ecotourism, working with project partner Fundacion Ecologica Magua. They will add paths, a wildlife viewing point, a gathering center, and signs. They will buy equipment such as kayaks and paddleboards. The fishers will learn about conservation and surveillance, and how to teach visitors about the local ecosystems. They will share educational materials with local schools and businesses. Finally, they will set up a garbage collection center to make the environment healthier for all species, humans included.

Project Updates

April 2022

On April 1, 2022, Seacology staff was able to visit the project at El Tablón Ecological Park. Fundación Ecológica Maguá, our project partner, has created a 66-acre oasis with paths throughout the mangroves, a man-made wetland that is attracting a variety of species, and bee hives. We were treated to the very first harvest of “Maguá Honey.” The area is adjacent to a river that is prone to flooding, which causes trash to flow from communities upstream through the mangrove area and eventually out to sea; another key component of this project is helping to manage this trash and protect the mangrove ecosystem from its negative effects. The potential of this area as a place for locals and tourists to learn about mangroves and enjoy a peaceful natural experience is high, and it was wonderful to see firsthand why it is so special and deserving of protection.

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March 2022

Torrential rains have recently hit the area, and some plants within the nursery/garden area have been lost. Additionally, large amounts of trash washed into the mangroves. Cleanups have already taken place. Thankfully, the bee hives and bees were unaffected by the inundations.

Seacology staff plan to visit the area in late March, 2022.

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February 2022

Seven community members collect trash and water newly planted seedlings daily. Their presence also keeps hunters and loggers away. A new area for fishers to clean their catch has been built.

Beekeeping training sessions were held with 14 participants, both men and women, and the first 10 honeybee colonies were installed. Beekeepers are discussing selling honey under a new “native” brand.

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June 2021

A mangrove and coastal plant nursery has been established; an exciting component has been successful propagation of the critically endangered Sosúa sage. Planted mangroves are being carefully monitored, with a reported high success rate. A human-made wetland has been created, with a shallow lake of 1,937 square feet containing native fish, crab, and shrimp. Periodic cleanups have improved conditions in and around the mangroves, and fishermen attended a workshop about the importance of trash management. Local kids attended another workshop, this time about birds. Four cleanup events were held with community members, who will also be engaged in mangrove plantation and environmental awareness. Finally, representatives of the DR beekeeping network visited the site to give their approval for apiary activities; a workshop and workplan will follow.

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February 2021

Activities have focused on design of the area, clean-ups, and germination of 300 red mangrove seedlings. Almost 200 black mangroves were collected and are being planted into nursery bags. All this has been done in the context of community meetings, landscaping, and monitoring mangrove growth from past restorations. Four women and six men from the fishermen’s association have been trained in bird conservation and as environmental hiking guides. After the first clean-ups of the site, salt-resistant coastal plants were planted, including endemic and native shrubs that attract butterflies, birds, and crabs. The oyster reef and pilot seaweed farm ideas in the original proposal were scrapped in favor of mangrove honey production.

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