June 27, 2022
The Dominican Republic is making good on its promise to protect thirty percent of its territory by 2030. As part of the 30×30 global movement, the Dominican Republic seeks to play an important role in fighting the loss of biodiversity and to shield against climate change by permanently protecting nearly a third of its expansive oceanic territory.
The Dominican Republic announced this proposed expansion during the United Nations Ocean Conference held jointly by Portugal and Kenya in Lisbon. The Dominican Republic’s commitment to the ocean will stand as an example of leadership heard around the globe.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue and a leading global figure in ocean conservation calls the move, “inspiring and hopeful.” She says, “the Dominican Republic is setting an outstanding example that I hope many others will follow.” The commitment to this process is felt at many levels of government and reflects a true movement among practitioners and citizens alike.
Milagros De Camps, Deputy Minister of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, adds, “This is an important step forward for our nation; one that reflects the will of the Dominican people to play an important role in solving global problems.”
The Dominican Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is roughly seven times the size of its landmass, and it contains treasures of global significance, including coral reefs, deep-sea corals, seamounts, whale aggregations, and a section of the deepest zone of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench—the trench is nearly as deep as Mt. Everest is tall.
President Luis Abinader is committed to ensuring that the Dominican Republic is part of the solution to climate change, not just a victim of its effects. The late Orlando Jorge Mera, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources was fully engaged in the process to protect these important spaces. His life was cut short before he could see his nation’s vision to fruition. In honor of Minister Mera’s commitment to the people and nature of the Dominican Republic, President Abinader intends to name one of these future protected areas in his honor.
The areas under government review include the Beata Ridge in the southwestern corner of its EEZ, a critical benthic ecosystem between the Colombian and Venezuelan abyssal plains; and the Silver and Navidad Banks in the northern portion of its EEZ, close to the Turks and Caicos. The Silver and Navidad Banks are important calving grounds for Humpback Whales, as well as near-surface coral reefs.
These areas are not just beautiful and unique, they are important engines against our changing oceans and climate. The global ocean is responsible for at least half of our planet’s oxygen. Scientists estimate between 50-80% in fact—in other words, at least every other breath we breathe is from oceanic plankton. The Dominican Republic’s leaders understand that we cannot protect the spaces without protecting the processes they encompass. This is why the scientific authorities are thoroughly reviewing exactly what these areas ought to contain in order to preserve the ocean’s function, not only its space.