Center for Marine Innovation
The Center for Marine Innovation is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to marine conservation, restoration, and management. Inaugurated in 2018, the Center works with diverse partners to conduct research, environmental education, and active management and restoration projects.
Coral Conservation and Restoration
In 2004, the Fundación Grupo Puntacana partnered with Counterpart International and the University of Miami to launch the first coral restoration program in the Dominican Republic. The objective of the project is to protect the coral reefs of the Punta Cana region and employ proactive restoration techniques for degraded reeds. At first, the project concentrated on restoring the remaining colonies of the endangered species, Acropora cervicornis, but has since expanded to diverse coral species.
Restoration consists of collecting coral fragments from existing colonies and then propagating them in underwater nurseries using different methods and materials. As the corals grow, the frames are trimmed and the coral fragments are transplanted back onto the reef.
For the last 15 years, the Foundation's restoration project has become one of the Caribbean’s largest programs and transformed the Foundation into leaders in this emerging science. The Foundation has since explored different restoration methodologies including microfragmentation, sexual reproduction, as well as underwater coral nurseries. The Foundation has conducted dozens of workshops and trainings, participated in scientific papers and research, and presented at conferences to help promote coral gardening globally.
Sea Turtle Conservation
All seven species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction due to human impact. Since 1994 the Foundation has been committed to sea turtle conservation, working with different organizations to protect them in the Punta Cana region. Collaborating with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Foundation conducts organized monitoring of the beach, resulting in the identification of dozens of hawksbill turtle nests, the release of tens of thousands of baby turtles, and proactive interventions to protect turtle nests. The Foundation also implements changes to provide better conditions for the nests, such as modifications to the coastal lighting and planting native flora near local beaches.
Ornamental Fish Nursery
In 2018, the Foundation created the first ornamental fish nursery in the Dominican Republic in collaboration with Roger Williams University. The goal of the project is to use existing aquaculture techniques to create a sustainable supply of reef animals to the growing global market for tropical fish, while mitigating the pressure of harvesting wild animals from coral reefs. The nursery seeks to integrate local fishermen and women into the production process, providing sustainable livelihoods for fishing families and reducing fishing pressures on local coral reefs. In the future, the fish nursery may incorporate restoration work on local diminished species, including the rearing of species of parrotfish, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins, all vital organisms for a healthy coral ecosystem.
Co-Management of Southeast Marine Sanctuary
The co-management of the “Southeast Reef Marine Sanctuary” is a public-private coalition that works on the conservation of marine biodiversity and includes the Foundation and various partners. The sanctuary was created in 2009 and has an area of almost 8,000 km2, qualifying it as one of the largest marine protected areas in the Caribbean.
The co-management of the northeast section of the Sanctuary is led by the “Alianza Arrecifes del Este”, a not-for-profit foundation formed by the Association of Hotels and Tourism Projects of the East Zone (ASOLESTE), the Association of Aquatic Service Providers of the La Altagracia Province, the Fundación Grupo Puntacana, the Tourism Cluster of La Altagracia Province, the International Blue Finance Association and The Nature Conservancy.
Co-management brings multiple benefits to the Sanctuary, including an improvement in the conservation and restoration of its marine biodiversity, improved tourist attractions, the creation of new jobs and opportunities in the fishing and eco-tourism sectors, as well increasing resilience confronting climate change.