After completing the first five years of working towards coral reef conservation, Reef Check Dominican Republic (RCDR) launched its Five-Year report during a cocktail party in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Dr. Gregor Hodgson, Executive Director and Founder of Reef Check International, was in attendance. Also present, and responsible for the event, were Dr. Rubén Torres, President of RCDR, Karen Pannochia, Executive Director of RCDR, the members of the Board of Directors, and other staff members and volunteers.
The Five-Year report provides an overview of the work that this NGO has been carrying out in its development process. Included in the report is the implementation of Reef Check International protocols for monitoring and measuring the health of coral reefs used to find practical solutions to the problems affecting them. The goal is thus to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources and securing the livelihoods of communities living around them.
In 2004, Reef Check International developed its first project in the DR, which sought to create an educational program known then as EcoAction (now the EcoDiver program). It was offered to various target audiences in order to increase awareness of direct and indirect uses of reef resources. With this program emerged the possibility of creating a local non-profit organization that would work toward continuous, long-term marine conservation, education, and restoration projects around coral reefs at a national level. RCDR became a legal entity on December 28, 2005.
The creation of RCDR established the local presence of a formal institution of trained staff working around the clock on coral reef conservation. With the firm foundation that characterizes Reef Check, it is an organization well-suited to putting the conservation, education and restoration of local coral reef systems into action. Subsequently, RCDR identified La Caleta Submarine National Park as a pilot project in which it has focused most of its efforts, achieving measurable results. RCDR, along with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, is responsible for the management of La Caleta, and their forces together have resulted in significant improvements of the coral reef in the park.
With this shared management model, RCDR developed a long-term project consisting of integrating community members into the management actions, as well as creating a new and better alternative to destructive fishing for fishermen through eco-tourism, thus providing the basis for a more sustainable outcome for both the park and the fishermen. The Carey Aquatic Center developed by RCDR enhances La Caleta National Submarine Park as a diving destination with more character. Given the required level of conservation that is currently being implemented, the preservation of many species that represent the Dominican Republic’s rich marine flora and fauna are now observable in a place where they were once absent. Divers and others interested in marine conservation now have the opportunity to witness a true success story.
For more information on RCDR and to find out how you can get involved, visit www.reefcheckdr.org