Thursday, June 1, 2023

Dominican Republic struggles to conserve corals “harassed” by local and global factors

This is the figure: 127 conservation units, of which 28 include maritime spaces, cover 45,900 square kilometers. That means that 75% of the Dominican Republic’s coastline is under protection.

The paradisiacal archipelago is home to exotic species and coral reefs, however, they are under both local and global threats, almost exclusively from human actions, being a latent enemy.

Thanks to the joint effort of the State and private entities, the conservation and protection of marine resources is being fought from different areas, compared by many to tropical forests due to its biological diversity and being a source of livelihood for the surrounding communities.

Andreina Valdez, coordinator of Programs at the Dominican Foundation for Marine Studies (Fundemar), explains to the money that the entity has eight coral nurseries that house more than three kilometers of tissue together free of competition and predation. This action is developed in partnership with the hotel sector, diving centers and the impacted community.

It indicates that its Laboratory for Assisted Reproduction of Corals has increased the volume of coral recruits planted on the reef. He explains that this process involves the collection of gametes from different coral species during spawning (egg laying), assisted fertilization, raising embryos, larvae and recruits, and stocking recruits in reef rehabilitation areas.

“We have worked with six species with more than 500,000 coral recruits, including the Pilar coral, one of the most attacked by a disease that is putting a lot of pressure on that species,” he specified.

He added that currently among 20 coral families that are being affected by a disease that has been going on for several years in the Caribbean, and detected a year ago in Bayahíbe, there is one with the greatest threat in the family known as the Pilar coral, which is being attacked by Fundemar. performing assisted reproduction, together with other family species.

These techniques promote the genetic diversity of coral populations and potentially increase their resilience to environmental changes.

herbivore protection

Another element that plays a leading role in the conservation of reef ecosystems are marine species. However, inappropriate practices such as overfishing, particularly of parrotfish, have been a determining factor in the decline of reefs in the Caribbean.

In response to this urgency, some countries in the region have prohibited the fishing of fish such as parrotfish and surgeonfish. Dominican Republic is not far behind. In 2017, it put a two-year ban on parrotfish, then added another year.

However, this measure was not sufficient due to lack of follow-up. The “Analysis of the effectiveness of the ban on parrotfish in the Dominican Republic: Lessons learned in two years”, presented in 2020 by Someira Zambrano, coordinator of the Dominican Reef Network (RAD), stresses that “there was no evidence of the impact of the ban on parrotfish. On the contrary, the 63% increase in density was not significant”.

Hence, in 2021, the Executive Branch, through Decree 418-21, prohibited the capture of a series of reef herbivores until July 2023. A long-term measure, which also serves to control fast-growing macroalgae and thus not affect corals.

“The parrotfish population, specifically, is crucial for the survival of coral reefs,” says Andreina Valdez, coordinator of Fundemar Programs.

For Nina Lysenko, Director of Marine Resources at the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, these measures are currently accompanied by a monitoring program based on indicators in order to verify the effectiveness of the ban, sanction offenders and subsequently recommend the modification. , the lifting or extension of the ban.

In 2021, fines representing more than RD$124 million were imposed for environmental crimes such as illegal fishing, extraction of materials from rivers, felling of trees, among others. As well as more than 1,242 sanctioned cases, of the 1,397 received, with the support of the National Environmental Protection Service (Senpa) and the Specialized Attorney for the Defense of the Environment.

In this sense, the Dominican Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Codopesca) carries out several inter-institutional collaboration agreements to improve the conditions of coral reefs and their associated ecosystems, which constitute a great fishing economic value. One of them was the recent agreement with the Cap Cana Foundation.

The agreement will also delimit the non-fishing and fishing areas in accordance with the Management Plan for the Southwest Reefs Marine Sanctuary, thus promoting respect for these protected areas. There will also be training on fishing, closed seasons and the added value of fish products.

“The preservation of corals is a highly relevant step to fulfill our mission: working under a sustainable development model that guarantees an adequate quality of life for present and future generations,” said Carlos José Then, executive director of Codopesca.

from the state

Lysenko said that the Dominican Government is currently executing a series of individual actions, and in conjunction with the private sector, conservation foundations, universities, the coastal restoration consortium, civil society and the RAD for the benefit of coral reefs.

He highlighted the evaluation and monitoring of marine ecosystems and their uses and impacts; regulatory and control actions for the conservation of key species in the reefs; as well as mangrove restoration programs, coral nurseries, which he said have planted some 4,300 plants.

He recognized that these works demand many technical and material resources, but they are “extremely important” to know the state of these ecosystems with reliable methods that can be used for decision-making.

“The Ministry’s strategy is the connectivity of marine ecosystems, under the Cartagena Convention, as well as those proposed by the International Coral Reef Society (ICRS): addressing climate change, improving local conditions and actively restoring corals” , he stressed, indicating that the conservation of marine areas goes hand in hand with the protection of corals.

Regarding the impact of climate change on coral ecosystems, the Minister of the Presidency, Joel Santos, said that the Government is working to mitigate and adapt to this phenomenon.

“They are medium and long-term measures, which are obviously aimed at protecting the future of the nation based on environmental issues such as the protection of national parks and gas emissions. In other words, a set of issues that ultimately seek to protect the most important thing: the environment,” said the official.

The National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism (CNCCMDL) estimates that by 2030, the Dominican Republic will need an investment of US$18 billion to mitigate and adapt to climate effects that impact the productive sectors of the local economy.


Given this reality, what does the travel and tourism industry do? Experts consulted by elDinero maintain that more and more hotel companies are joining voluntary actions, beyond legal regulations, with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism.

The executive vice president of the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants (Asonahores), Andrés Marranzini, has the answer: most of the beaches that are in front of hotels, members of Asonahores, carry the blue flag certification, which certifies exploitation actions. tourism within the framework of sustainability and the guarantee of preservation of natural resources.

“From the preservation of corals, responsible use of plastic to policies for carrying out activities that do not harm natural resources, they prevent the social responsibility of the hotel companies that are part of the organization,” says Marranzini.

A specific example is the Iberostar Group. In 2019, it created a nursery and a coral genetics laboratory in the country to restore coral reefs, which began with 10 species and 180 individual corals.

“What this system does is subject different species (of corals) to different temperatures to find out which are the most potentially apt to resist climate change and thus make the decision of which ones are used to grow and replant the reefs,” Macarena Blanco explained. , in charge of the Coral Lab in Punta Cana.

He compares it to a “Noah’s ark” to safeguard the diversity of species in the face of any loss due to hurricane, disease or climate change. Regarding the nurseries, he said that the oldest is in Bayahíbe, while the most recent is in Bávaro and another is being tested in Puerto Plata. They also have one in Jamaica and two in Mexico.

What is lacking?

Lysenko argued that the environment sector, because it is so crucial and transversal to all the productive areas of the country, requires a proportional budget allocation for the effective fulfillment of its functions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. As well as the political will to the updated approval of the Sector Law, pending for more than 15 years.

He pointed out that the near future is governed by climate change and paradigm shifts in the lifestyles of those who benefit from natural resources. “The survival capacity of coral reefs exceeds adversities, but they need to continue fighting for their conservation,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Valdez explains that for restoration projects they can find both national and international economic funds.

Between 2009 and 2014, the large-scale UNDP/GEF project “Sustainable Management of Shared Living Marine Resources of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem and Adjacent Regions” (“CLME Project”) was implemented, which produced three main problems Socioeconomic in the Caribbean region, including the Dominican Republic: unsustainable fishing, habitat degradation and community modifications; and marine pollution.

For 2012, the pilot project for Management and Conservation of the Reef Fishery and Biodiversity – Montecristi National Park- was executed, with a total budget of US$400,000; US$200,000 from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and US$200,000 contributed in kind by the Ministry of the Environment of the Dominican Republic.

However, he assures that the vital thing is to have government support in decision-making and to apply and monitor local regulations so that coral reefs are not affected.

“Regulations must be enforced, it is not enough that they remain on paper, they must be followed up,” he reiterates, acknowledging that there is greater awareness at the state level, but more could be done by the participating actors, since that “we are a nation that depends on nature”.


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