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Bangladesh

St. Martin’s Island

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Conservation benefit: Protecting 1,480 acres of coral habitat for 10 years

Community benefit: New primary school, guardhouses, and buoys

Date Approved: 06.2013

Ocean

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

St. Martin’s Island, 12 kilometers from mainland Bangladesh, is home to the only coral habitat in the country, with 66 known species. The island is approximately eight square kilometers in area and is home to 8,000 permanent residents. During the past decade, tourism spread over the north zone of the island. In the winter months, mass tourism contributes to plastic pollutants and sedimentation in the water, hampering coral growth.

Local NGO MarineLife Alliance has taken the initiative to conserve the marine biodiversity of Bangladesh’s southeastern coast, including St. Martin’s Island. It is working with the local community to help conserve its marine resources and ameliorate the damage caused by unsustainable tourism activities and other destructive practices. The communities on St. Martin’s will establish a six-square-kilometer (1,480-acre) marine protected area for 10 years.

The community is in need of a primary school for the island’s south zone. Because the closest primary school is four kilometers to the north, many young children do not attend school. Seacology is funding the construction of a school in the southern part of the island. The grant will also pay for buoys, guard sheds, signage, a center for marine activities, and other conservation-related items.

Project Updates

November 2017

This project is now complete. Guard huts and turtle conservation signs are on the island’s beaches, and six demarcation and mooring buoys have been installed. The marine protected area is being respected. The new school makes it possible for children from the south end of the island to go to school year-round.

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May 2017

For 2017, 137 children have been admitted to the school—and there may be more. The marine protected area is being respected, and six demarcation and mooring buoys have been built and installed.

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January 2017

The school building, which has one big classroom and an office, has been completed and a teacher employed. Thirty-five children have completed nursery school, and 41 have been granted admission for this year. The marine protected area, according to Zahirul Islam, head of our partner MarineLife Alliance, is being respected. One more turtle guard hut more will be put at a northwestern beach. Demarcation and mooring buoys have been built and will be installed soon.

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May 2016

Zahirul Islam, head of our project partner MarineLife Alliance, reports that the three turtle guard huts have been finished and installed. MarineLife has also bought binoculars and more classroom benches for the school.

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April 2016

The new primary school is already being used, and finishing touches to the building will be made soon. Seacology’s India and Bangladesh field representative Vineeta Hoon and Program Manager Mary Randolph visited the island in March, and were shown the school by Zahirul Islam, director of our project partner MarineLife Alliance. Zahirul also showed the first buoy, which was built on the island. One small guard hut, which will be used to safeguard sea turtle nests, has been built, and two more are almost finished. The marine protected area continues to be respected.

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November 2015

All materials for the school have been obtained, and construction is underway. The guard shed is almost finished. In addition to the six signs already posted on the beaches, 20 more 3-foot x 3-foot signs, with information about conserving the marine area and coral reef, are being installed. Durable benches have been bought for the school. An underwater survey and cleanup is scheduled for December and January. Because no mooring or demarcation buoys are available in Bangladesh, the people are making their own from fiberglass, with help from a local boat repair technician.

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May 2015

India Field Representative Vineeta Hoon reports that land for the school has been acquired, and the building’s frame is under construction. Corrugated tin, wooden panels, plastic windows, and flooring have been ordered, and the community is working on getting permission from the authorities to ship them to the island. The steel frame for the guard shed has also been ordered. Six signs about coral habitat protection have been erected on the beaches. Turtle conservation work is ongoing. Data are being collected on fisher families who engage in coral trade in the south area because they usually fish along the west coast, where the protected area will be established. A two-day underwater survey was conducted in March but had to be abandoned due to poor visibility; the dive operator suggests trying again between October 2015 and February 2016 because turbidity will continue to worsen with the onset of the monsoon in May.

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January 2015

India Field Representative Vineeta Hoon visited this island to conduct a training workshop with the MarineLife Alliance (MLA), Seacology’s partner on this project. She reports that the MLA is doing good work at protecting sea turtle nesting beaches and has a good network of volunteers from the community. Community leaders have signed the covenant with Seacology, signaling their commitment to preserving the marine protected area. In the next few months, the MLA plans to place signs around the island, conduct a survey of corals, and clean up plastic debris, fishing lines, and nets. The MLA has also bought building materials for the school, which should be built by May 2015. From June to October 2015, the plan is to buy and install mooring buoys, build the watch and guard sheds, and buy radios and binoculars.

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