El Tablón Ecological Park contains widely diverse ecosystems, including tropical rainforest, coastal forest, sand dunes, and wetlands. It also includes estuaries and mangroves with nearby coral reefs. All four of the Dominican Republic’s mangrove species are found 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.
However, unsustainable human activities – overfishing, waste dumping, deforestation, water pollution, and poaching – have damaged the plant and animal populations. There has been a tremendous reduction in biodiversity.
Community members know the importance of reducing these activities and restoring the healthy mangroves and reefs that their livelihoods depend on. They also recognize the area’s great potential for sustainable ecotourism and aquaculture. Some coral reef and other restoration activities have taken place. This project is the next step in protecting the park’s unique ecosystems and providing income to local people.
Members of the Sosua Fishermen’s Association have agreed to take charge of the maintenance, surveillance, and protection of 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. They will also launch pilot projects to farm oysters and seaweed, both of which have viable markets. New nesting structures will help the park’s birds.
After these activities, community members will move on to revitalizing the area for ecotourism. To make visitors’ experience pleasant and informative, 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 receive trainings on conservation and surveillance, and will learn how to teach visitors about the local ecosystems. Educational materials will be shared with local schools and businesses. Finally, they will set up a garbage collection center to make the environment healthier for all species, humans included.