APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Working with numerous partners, PESCA will significantly expand its coral reef management and restoration efforts beginning in 2011-12. These efforts fall in three areas: 1. Implementation of fishing regulations and creation of no-take fishing areas. 2. Creation of alternative livelihoods for local fishermen 3. Monitoring and restoration of coral species.
1. Implementation of fishing regulations and establishment of no-take fishing areas:
Scientific studies have shown that reduced reef fish populations have drastic consequences on the health of coral reefs. In order to restore fish populations and restore a balance in the Punta Cana reef ecosystem, PESCA will sign a multi-part agreement between the Dominican Council for Fishing and Aquaculture (CODOPESCA), which is the government authority responsible for enforcing fishing regulations and multiple development companies to enforce the national fishing regulations in Punta Cana. Simultaneously PESCA will create scientifically guided no-take fishing areas on the reef where no fishing will be permitted. The goal of this agreement is to establish regulations for fishing, restore reef fish populations, and eventually set up a co-management agreement between local fisherman, development resorts and the Dominican government to manage this important fishery. As part of this process, CODOPESCA will help organize the fishermen community into a fishermen cooperative where all members will have the opportunity to benefit from fishing and related touristic activities.
2. Creation of alternative livelihoods for local fishermen:
-The implementation of fishing regulations will inevitably reduce the amount of fish catch that local fishermen will be legally permitted to extract from the reef. The creation of alternative livelihoods for these fishermen will be key to insuring that regulations are followed and that no-take zones are respected.
- In 2011, PESCA will design, construct and launch over 200 Lobster Houses jointly with local fishermen. Lobster houses are a proven method for attracting lobster, making them easier for fishermen to catch and avoiding fishing on the reef. The resources for the lobster houses will be supplied to fishermen by PESCA. In exchange, the fishermen must build the houses and respect size limits and seasonality for lobster. PESCA will then facilitate the direct purchase of sustainably harvested lobster from the fishermen at just prices from local restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets.
- In 2011 PESCA will launch the Catch, Picture, & Release (CPR) Fishing Excursions. This catch and release fishing excursion will employ local fishermen as guides, deckhands and boat captains for touristic fishing excursions on the reef. PESCA will develop educational materials and species guides for guests. Fishermen will be trained and certified to work on these excursions and gain income from tips and salaries. The fishermen's local knowledge about fishing, the local reef and observation skills will be employed as part of the excursion and add value to the content of the visits to Punta Cana.
- In 2011, after several months of pilot programs, PESCA will roll out Lionfish Hunting as an alternative income for fishing. The Lionfish (Pterios sp.) is an invasive introduced species from the Pacific that is having devastating impacts on the reefs of the Caribbean. It is fast-reproducing, venomous, a voracious predator of local reef fish eggs and has no natural predator in the Caribbean. PESCA will begin purchasing Lionfish from local fishermen (Lionfish has a delicious white meat and is non-venomous when the spines have been removed) and facilitating sales to local restaurants. This program will employ local fishermen to control a dangerous endangered species.
- Fishermen will be trained and certified in Reef Check Monitoring (a methodology for monitoring coral reefs and reef health that can be conducted by non-scientists and non-experts) and Coral Gardening Techniques. By training fishermen in these methodologies, PESCA will insure that fishermen are actively engaged in all reef conservation efforts, participate in its restoration, and gain economically for their engagement and work.
- PESCA will train local fishermen to provide different services related to Maintenance and Cleaning of Boats, Installation and Maintenance of Buoys and Channel-Markers, Implementation of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) for Dee Sea and Offshore Fishing Excursions, and other assorted marine activites. PESCA will certify members of the newly formed fishing cooperative with CPR and First Aid, Basic English, Boat Captaining, and other basic skills related to boats, aquatic sports, and marinas in order to convert local fishermen from Reef Predators into Reef Preservers.
3. Monitoring and Restoration of Coral Species:
- Key to any efforts related to reef management and conservation are establishing baseline measurements for the health of the reef and continually monitoring these results to insure that the programs and activities of PESCA are having a measurable impact.
- Using the expertise of University of Miami and adding additional reef surveys with the Reef Check methodology, PESCA will be able to measure the impact of its conservation initiatives on the health of the reef.
- Reef Restoration (or Coral Gardening) was initiated in Punta Cana by Counterpart International, the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation in 2005. The project seeks to protect the endangered Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), develop techniques for coral propagation, and establish restoration nurseries throughout the Caribbean, using proven methods for propogation and transplanting backed with scientific research and data. The restoration program involves growing Staghorn corals in underwater nurseries on a variety of frame types and then outplanting the coral back onto the reef in coordination. This critical coral species provides essential habitat for reef species.
- An integral part of this program is involving the dive public in restoration activities and creating awareness of the critical plight of coral reefs. Working with PADI, the world's largest dive certification organization, PESCA will create a PADI Specialty Dive Certification for Coral Restoration that will train divers in proper techniques for coral restoration. Divers will then be able to participate as volunteers, interns or employees in coral restoration projects around the world.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Implementation of fishing regulations and establishment of no-take fishing areas:
- Signing of multi-party agreement: September 2011
- Begin fishing law enforcement: Nov/Dec 2011
- Reorganization of fishermen into cooperative: Spring 2012
Creation of alternative livelihoods for local fishermen
Lobster Houses: (Sept - Dec 2011
- Monitoring: Continous monitoring
- Lobster harvest and sale to local restaurants
CPR Fishing (Sept 2011 -March 2012)
- Establish protocols for excursions
- Create guides and promotional materials
- Begin marketing of excursions locally and online
- Begin pilot excursions
Lionfish Hunting (Sept. - Dec 2011)
- Facilitate purchase with fishermen
- Train restaurants in preparing lionfish filets
- Begin sales
- Promote project
Reef Check Monitoring (January 2012)
- Coordination of trainings with Reef Check DR
- Training of fishermen
- Follow-up and refresher course
Coral Gardening Training (January - August 2012)
- Prepare training program
- Conduct training
Training of Fishermen in specific skills: (January - August 2012)
- Design training courses
- Implementation of specific certifications
Monitoring and Restoration of Coral Species:
Coral Reef Health Monitoring (February 2012)
- Conduct surveys with local fishermen and establish monitoring protocols
Reef Restoration (January - August 2012)
- Expand existing nurseries in Punta Cana
- Establish new nurseries in DR
- Hire local fishermen to realize coral reef restoration work
The Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing destinations in the Caribbean in large part because of its beautiful coastal ecosystems. Punta Cana, by far the most popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic (DR), is home to one of the largest barrier reefs in the DR and also critical breeding grounds for pelagic and reef fish. Ironically, even though the local tourism industry depends upon these unique natural resources to attract tourists from all over the world, current development practices in the region have reduced the fish populations and coral cover to some of the lowest levels in the Caribbean.
The Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA) seeks to restore the coastal ecosystems of the Punta Cana area by working with conservation initiatives at different levels of the local community and involving sustainable tourism initiatives to make them economically viable. In 2006, Puntacana Resort & Club and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation formed an alliance with University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to evaluate the condition of the coral reef, the factors affecting the reef and propose potential solutions. Since that initial study, PESCA has engaged local stakeholders such as local fishermen and tour operators, developers and hoteliers, students and children, and the Dominican government authority on fisheries, CODOPESCA, to help create an integrated coastal management plan for Punta Cana.
SEEKING: Financial Resources, Implementing Partners, Best Practice Information, Media/Marketing Opportunities
By sharing our experiences with other interested parties we hope to make contact with interested investors and other well informed parties that could contribute to our initiatives and aid us in publicizing our initatives.
OFFERING: Implementing Partners, Best Practice Information, Media/Marketing Opportunities
Like all other initiatives spawned by the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation, PESCA offers to share all of its best and worst practices free of charge. In this way PESCA seeks to positively influence the surrounding tourism destinations to promote an increased sense of environmental stewardship and a more sustainable approach to utilizing the areas' rich natural resources to bring tourists from all over the world.