Co-management for coral reef protection in the Dominican Republic

Coral, Dominican Republic. Image: Carson

An article from Monga Bay about the establishment of the Southeast Marine Sanctuary in the Dominican Republic, with a focus on the Sanctuary’s innovative co-management model:

[A] new and unique marine sanctuary, the Southeast Marine Sanctuary, has recently been declared. Combined, this new marine sanctuary and the existing Cotubanamá Park will amount to a whopping 300,000 hectares of protected area. A recent collaboration between the Carnegie Airborne Observatory and The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean will yield high-resolution maps of the new sanctuary using data collected from satellites, aircraft, drones, and by scuba divers. These detailed maps will enable managers to make important marine spatial planning decisions that appropriately allocate conservation efforts throughout the sanctuary.

Yet even more impressive is the developing management of the new sanctuary. The protected area will be divided into two zones, each to be co-managed by a diverse group of stakeholders organized into a nonprofit. The Eastern zone will be overseen by the Alliance for the Eastern Reef Sanctuary. Its board will consist primarily of the Grupo Puntacana Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Altagracia Hotel and Restaurant Association, Altagracia Tourism Cluster, Association of Aquatic Centers, and U.N. Blue Finance, which provided the start-up loan for the sanctuary. The Southern zone will be overseen by a similar entity, also supported by a complex group of foundations and stakeholders. Its board will consist of La Romana Hotel Association, La Romana Tourism Cluster, Fundación Dominicana de Estudios Marinos (FUNDEMAR), the Central Romana Foundation, U.N. Blue Finance, and The Nature Conservancy. Additionally, a larger, even more diverse board of government entities, foundations, community groups, and fishermen associations will advise the management of both the Eastern and Southern zones. Together, the Southern and Eastern zones will submit joint reports and management plans to the Ministry of Environment of the Dominican Republic.

The structure of its oversight – specifically the collaboration and engagement of such a huge range of stakeholders, from the federal government to local fishermen and from environmental groups to hotel associations – makes this new marine sanctuary remarkable. The buy-in from stakeholders who directly rely on marine resources, whether for their livelihood or for tourism, promises sustained commitment to ensuring that this is more than just a “paper park”. This oversight, in conjunction with a detailed understanding of the reefs distribution and condition provided by the high-resolution maps, are securing a promising future of effective conservation and management of this important biodiversity hotspot. As global-scale stressors like warming ocean temperatures and tropical storms increase pressure on the world’s coral reefs, conservation efforts are focused on reducing local pressures like overfishing, development, and pollution. Marine sanctuaries, such as this one that bring all voices to the table, provide a blueprint for other regions to follow.

Read more in the full Monga Bay article.

Previously on Green Antilles: Government, NGOs, and the private sector co-operate to manage the Dominican Republic’s second largest protected area.

[Image: Carson]

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