The white sands of La Playita are a major tourist attraction. In the seagrass off the beach, there are conch and other mollusks, crustaceans, and an abundance of fish as well as manatees and the occasional leatherback turtle. In the forest area, there are endemic Hispaniolan slider turtles, mangrove crabs, and a variety of native and migratory birds. All four of the DR’s mangroves species are found in the forest, which is threatened by invasive species and human activities.
Most residents of nearby Las Galeras (population 6,000) depend on fishing, tourism, or both for their livelihoods. The seagrass meadows support both; seagrass is a nursery for fish, reduces the destructive impact of Atlantic waves, and keeps the water clear, keeping the beach attractive to tourists. Local organization Foro Ambiental de Samaná, our project partner in nearby El Astillero, has been engaging local fishers and others community members, reminding them that one live fish in a healthy habitat brings 20 times more benefits to the entire community than a dead one.
Many local people think that seagrass is a form of algae, and do not understand that it is of great ecological importance. The project aims to educate the community about the importance of seagrass and mangroves. The fishers will form a cooperative to foster good fishing practices, and implement monitoring and surveillance. Children, adolescents, and young adults will paint interpretive murals with a seagrass and mangrove theme, under the guidance of a professional painter. Workshops and competitions will be advertised on social and local media. Mooring buoys to anchor fishing and tourist boats will be installed to protect the seagrass. Our project partner will rehabilitate the mangrove area, and create an inviting outdoor classroom, where local youth as well as tourists can learn about the environment. Finally, sports-loving kids will take part in “Play for the Mangroves” activities.