Recognizing the environmental and economic value of healthy coral reefs, and the dangers posed by warmer oceans and more intense hurricanes, a group of tourism-focused organizations have joined forces to help protect and regenerate Caribbean reefs.
The nonprofit Tourism Cares, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), and the Grupo Puntacana Foundation in the Dominican Republic have partnered on a Coral Restoration Capacity Building Project to assist three Caribbean destinations which suffered serious reef damage from the devastating storms of 2017.
Two individuals each from Dominica, the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands recently spent a week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, completing a Coral First Aid Certification training program. Additional individuals from the affected territories will now be trained by these graduates to assist with major restoration efforts.
Marine scientists have confirmed that coral reefs, which make up only one percent of the ocean floor but support 25 percent of marine life, have declined in the Caribbean by as much as 50 to 80 percent in 30 years.
“CHTA, through our affiliate Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), has a longstanding working relationship with the Grupo Puntacana Foundation and we’re delighted to be able to draw upon the Foundation’s expertise to provide this training,” said Frank Comito, CHTA’s CEO and Director General.
The Grupo Puntacana Foundation’s President Frank Rainieri was a founder of CAST and served as its first Chairman in 1997. The Foundation, with its own Center for Marine Innovation, has more than 14 years of experience in coral restoration. Having one of the largest coral nurseries in the Caribbean positions it as a leading coral gardening training institution.
“We have an environmental responsibility to regenerate these natural treasures because without reefs, there would be fewer beautiful beaches and without our beaches fewer tourists would visit, so coral gardening is both an ecological imperative as well as a significant economic driver for our region,” Comito stated.
Jake Kheel, Vice President for the Grupo Punta Cana’s Corporate Environmental Programs, noted that the Foundation is “pleased to have this opportunity to share with our Caribbean colleagues best practice techniques for reef restoration”. He asserted that in addition to the regional environmental and economic impact of coral reefs, they also play a key role in the global ecosystem.
Paula Vlamings, CEO of Tourism Cares, believes this “smart partnership” between major organizations is crucial for hurricane impacted destinations: “We thank all the supporters of the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund who made the sharing of resources possible.”
Argel Horton and Emily Graff (British Virgin Islands); Augustus Bernard and Donna Mitchell (Dominica); and Logan Michelle and Jason Quetel (U.S. Virgin Islands) took part in the training program.
While in the Dominican Republic, the participants interacted with world expert in coral restoration Dr. David Vaughan, who is from the Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys. Dr. Vaughan instructed participants on a new methodology of coral restoration known as micro-fragmentation, which he developed to reverse coral degradation through its rapid regeneration and transplanting onto dead reefs.
Upon completion of the Coral First Aid Certification these graduates are now able to, among other skills, identify, construct and prepare at least two different types of nursery propagation platforms; set up new nurseries; properly attach coral fragments for propagation; perform regular maintenance; collect performance data using established standardized procedures; and properly harvest and transport coral fragments and colonies.
About the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA)
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is the Caribbean’s leading association representing tourism interests for national hotel and tourism associations. For more than 50 years, CHTA has been the backbone of the Caribbean hospitality industry. Working together with 1,000 hotel and allied members and 32 National Hotel Associations, CHTA is shaping the Caribbean’s future and helping members to grow their businesses. Whether navigating new worlds like social media, sustainability, legislative issues, emerging technologies, data and intelligence or looking for avenues and ideas to better market and manage businesses, CHTA is helping members on matters that matter most.
For further information, visit www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.
The Grupo Puntacana Foundation
For the last 25 years, the Grupo Puntacana Foundation has confronted some of the Caribbean tourism industry’s most significant social and environmental challenges, successfully implementing diverse programs that have made it a leader in sustainable tourism. The Foundation initiated one of the Caribbean’s largest coral reef restoration projects while implementing numerous market-based community development projects. The Foundation designed and implemented Zero Waste at Puntacana Resort & Club, the first and largest corporate recycling program in the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Foundation runs the Center for Sustainability and the Center for Marine Innovation, two think tanks that work with world experts to conduct research and design experiments related to sustainable development. The Grupo Puntacana Foundation’s sustainability efforts have been recognized and awarded by the World Tourism Travel Council, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic Traveler.
About Tourism Cares
Tourism Cares, Inc. is a United States 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advances the travel industry’s positive impact to help people and places thrive. We believe it’s in all our best interest to support the destinations our industry depends on so that communities, travelers and businesses can prosper. We mobilize the entire industry to use its business as a force for good by convening, educating and motivating all sectors to make a positive impact through travel. Learn more at TourismCares.org and @TourismCares.