Learn why the Cabarete Reef is important and how we can protect it
Cabarete Bay, formed by a barrier coral reef, is situated on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. This small coastal community of roughly 15,000 full-time residents has a thriving tourism-driven economy. Often called the Adventure Capital of the Caribbean, Cabarete is famous for windsurfing, kitesurfing, and wave surfing thanks to year-round warm water, consistent trade winds, and predictable waves. The location, topography, and reef combine to create these perfect conditions. But there is more to the Cabarete reef than watersports. In this post, we will explain why the reef is so important and how we can protect it.
Reef Ecosystems And Why They Are Important
The shallow waters off the north coast of the Dominican Republic are blooming with coral reefs. Reef ecosystems are often referred to as the rainforests of the marine environment, and for a good reason. In much the same fashion that rainforest ecosystems house countless terrestrial species, the reef structures provide homes to roughly 25% of our oceans marine biodiversity. In fact, there are some within the scientific community that believes reef ecosystems have the highest biodiversity of any single ecosystem, even more so than tropical rainforests.
These rich ecosystems also play a significant role in protecting coastal communities. Reef structures essentially serve as natural buffers between the sea and adjacent coastlines. They are in fact the most effective natural barriers between the sea and the coast. Coral reefs dissipate wave energy. Essentially meaning they cause friction or turbulence to slow and even stop waves from continuing on their initial trajectory. Imagine a seawall, like those used to protect coastal communities from high tides and tsunamis. Reef ecosystems provide the same wave stopping power but without the need for human intervention. This protection is particularly crucial in a coastal community such as Cabarete which is exposed to strong winds for much of the year.
Why Reefs Are Important To The Local Economy
But these flamboyant tropical biomes offer other economically vital services, such as providing an income for local fisherman. Cabarete has a small-scale local fishing community that is supported by catching reef dwelling species such as red snapper, grouper, lobster, octopus, and squid to restaurants in Cabarete. This relationship between local fisherman and restaurants is awesome because of the seafood ultra fresh. Not to mention it’s always nice knowing where your food originates. Ultimately, the consumer is supporting the local economy by both consuming locally caught seafood and by dining in Cabarete.
Protecting the Reef
Cabarete’s reef ecosystem is inarguably a valuable natural asset to both its marine environment and the local economy. The Dominican government has recently made significant strides to protect and conserve this natural resource. In 2017 officials in the Dominican Republic began working with Global FinPrint since banning the commercial harvesting of shark and ray species in Dominican waters. Global FinPrint is a three-year survey of reef sharks and rays around the world. In 2017, the Dominican Government also implemented a two-year ban on the harvesting of parrotfish.
These species are vital to keeping the corrals clear of algal growth. While munching away with its bird-like beak, the parrotfish also chunks off coral from the reef and crushes it with grinding molar teeth to get to the algae-filled polyps inside. Much of the sand in the parrotfishes territory is the ground-up, undigested coral they excrete.
With these small yet vital steps, Cabarete’s reef ecosystem will continue to attract visitors from around the globe and create income for locals.
What Can I Do To Protect The Reef?
Even if you live far from coral reefs, you can have an impact on reef health and conservation. Read and share this infographic from the National Ocean Service who recently announced they are launching a revolutionary aerial mapping of Coral Reefs in the Caribbean, which includes the Dominican Republic.
Did you know you can adopt a reef through Reef Check?
Photographer and Diver Bill Passmore
A quick shoutout to Bill Passmore who has dedicated much of his time to documenting our local reefs. The photos in this article are just a tiny sampling of his work from his many years of diving in Cabarete and Sosua. If you like what you see, his prints are available through his webstore.