Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA)

Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA)

Dominican Republic
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA) seeks to redesign the entire Punta Cana coastline as a marine protected area to support conservational and nondestructive ecoturism opportunities. The project proposed involves the cooperation of both public and private actors to expand livelihood opportunities for local fishermen while simultaneously rehabilitating the badly damaged reef ecosystems and depleted fisheries.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The Dominican Republic has experienced a boom in its tourism industry, making it the fastest developing country in the Caribbean but also one of the most ecologically threatened areas in the region. Based on two reef surveys realized over the last five years, Punta Cana- the island’s most popular destination- has some of the lowest fish populations and lowest coral cover in the Caribbean due in large part to overfishing and destructive tourism developments. Though often taken for granted, the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Dominican Republic are directly responsible for attracting tourists. Coral reefs help to both shelter and replenish the beautiful white sand beaches, while the economically important fisheries maintain the delicate reef ecosystems. Should the overall fish populations and coral reefs continue to degrade to the point of collapse they will take with it the larger tourism industry, which employs 1 out of every 20 Dominicans.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA) is a long‐term collaborative effort spearheaded by the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation with multiple partners from the public and private sectors in the Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic. PESCA seeks to balance the continued growth and development of the region, the long‐ term health and sustainability of the coastal zone and coral reef, and the needs of local stakeholders. The goal of PESCA is to achieve integrated coastal management, including water quality monitoring, coral reef and coastal ecosystem protection and restoration, sustainable fisheries management, conservation of endangered species such as sea turtles, and development of alternative livelihoods for local fishermen, in order to insure the long‐term health of the Punta Cana coastal area. This partnership is unique as it includes Grupo PUNTACANA (GPC), one of the most influential and successful tourism resort developments in the Caribbean, the Dominican government, the local fishermen communities in Veron and Juanillo, and a variety of private and not-for-profit entities. Ultimately, PESCA will help Punta Cana continue as a premier tourist destination, protecting one of its primary attractions, its beaches and coral reefs, through community-based ecotourism initiatives and fisheries management in marine protected areas. The successes of the this program can be replicated throughout the region.
About You
PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation


, AL

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Fundación Ecológica PUNTACANA Avenida Abraham Lincoln No. 960 Ensanche Paraíso Apartado Postal 1083Santo Domingo, República Dom

Organization Country

, AL

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, AL

Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

Tourism is one of the most important industries worldwide. The Caribbean is one of the most important tourism destinations in the world and Punta Cana is one of the most important tourism destinations in the Caribbean. Using this train of thought, Punta Cana is one of the most important tourism destinations in the world, providing tens of thousands of jobs, as well tremendous opportunities for cultural interchange and economic growth for the Dominican Republic.

Grupo PUNTACANA and the Ecological Foundation serve as a point of reference for sustainable tourism for the Dominican Republic. With a distinguished history as the original tourism pioneers in the region, a well-recognized commitment to corporate responsibility and a role as leaders in the national tourism sector (GPC holds leadership positions in both the Punta Cana and National Hotel Associations), GPC’s efforts in sustainable development have been widely recognized nationally and internationally. Most importantly, GPC was recognized with the World Tourism Travel Council Destination Stewarship award as part of its Tourism for Tomorrow awards. The Ecological Foundation has worked with GPC and diverse partners to develop unique solutions to tourism’s difficult environmental challenges. Together, GPC and PCEF have used this position to positively influence the practices of other developers and improve environmental practices country wide.


As proposed, PESCA will achieve several very important goals towards the restoration of fisheries in the Punta Cana area:

1. Designating the entire coastline in front of Grupo PUNTACANA as a marine protected area; clearly demarking the area with buoys and implementing an effective security force to monitor the area.

2. Working with the local fishermen to implement alternatives to existing unsustainable fishing practices (e.g. designating fishing areas, constructing and utilizing lobster houses and controlling extraction to comply with fishing seasons)

3. Creating alternative livelihoods/additional sources of income for local fishermen (Catch, Picture & Release fishing tour guides, snorkeling/scuba guides, voluntourist guides)

4. Planting of native coastal flora including mangroves and uvas del mar, providing shelter to critically important fish and turtle species as well as helping to prevent further beach erosion.

5. Spread this sustainable tourism model to the surrounding tourist communities and eventually throughout the Dominican Republic.


PCEF’s unique approach to the conservation of coastal ecosystems through the creation of a marine protected area supporting community-based ecotourism initiatives and sustainable fisheries seeks to achieve the following key results:

1. The creation of no-take fishing zones and designated fishing areas collaboratively with local fishermen as part of the newly designated marine protected area.

2. An increase in the fish and lobster populations as a result of sustainable fishing practices and non-extractive tourism activities.

3. An increase in the number of fishermen participating in Catch, Picture & Release fishing tours (CPR fishing tours) and therefore a reduction in the number of fishermen participating in extractive fishing.

The final and regionally most important outcome of this work will be to create a positive model that can be replicated throughout the Punta Cana region especially to neighboring all-inclusive tourism areas of Bavaro and Cabeza del Toro.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1
The first year of the program will primarily be dedicated to formally establishing the Marine Protected Area (MPA). The PC MPA will include no-take zones, controlled take areas, reef restoration points, general areas for swimming and other tourist activities, and finally an effective security force to enforce these designations. Simultaneously, PCEF and PESCA will begin working with local fishermen in sustainable alternative livelihoods such as CPR fishing guides and fly-fishing tours. The principle idea of these initiatives is to empower the fishermen with entrepreneurial enterprises that simultaneously protect marine resources. These initiatives include extensive professional development training including: Basic English language skills, fishing techniques and client relations. The paradigm goal for the first year is to have the MPA clearly defined and enforced while simultaneously providing the fishermen with alternative sustainable livelihoods to alleviate the pressures on the fish populations.

Year 2
The second year will focus on advertising/publicizing our efforts to attract tourists to our new coastal ecotourism excursions. This will in turn help divert more local fishermen to these more lucrative but sustainable livelihoods utilizing their current skills. We will also begin incorporating other voluntourism opportunities including monitoring the beaches for turtle nests, working with our reef restoration program, conducting Reef Check surveys to assess fish populations, recreational snorkeling trips within the reef. During the second year we will also implement measures to prevent further beach erosion by planting native coastal flora such as seagrape that will help rebuild the sand dunes. Mangroves will also be replanted to help restore a significant portion of their lost habitat and prevent further sedimentation of the reefs.

Year 3
The third year will seek to smooth out and adjust the MPA as needed to better ensure its ecological and economic sustainability and then promote it throughout the region.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The single greatest challenge to our project is the complete change in the tourism culture required to successful implement a marine protected area that caters to sustainable tourism activities. Since Grupo PUNTACANA has had a deep sense of corporate social responsibility since its inception over 40 years ago, we are fairly confident that the program will be received well especially since we are able to draw on the experiences of other Caribbean locations implementing similar programs. The local PC fishermen are eager to participate in a new form of employment which utilizes their current skill and knowledge sets but yet has the potential to generate more money. Currently, the most lucrative tourist excursions within GPC are ecotourism excursions. In an area whose entire economy is based on tourism its no secret that the fastest growing form is ecotourism.

However, once we have installed this program and proven the ecological as well as economic viability of the initiative the real challenge will be to spread it throughout the region. The most common form of tourism found throughout the Altagracia province are the mega construction, all inclusive hotels, which have historically been timid to adopt environmental initiatives even though inaction threatens their very solvency. Accordingly, the third and final stage of this program will have to be a carefully constructed and convincing program in and of itself; at once demonstrating the need for immediate action and the economic viability of the program.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?

, AL

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Six years ago the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation formed the Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA), a unique public, private coalition represented by government agencies (Dominican Council of Fishing and Aquaculture (CODOPESCA) and the Dominican Secretary of Environment), private companies (Club Med, Cap Cana, and the Hotel Association of La Altagracia Province), and local stakeholders (Juanillo Fishermen Association). PESCA also has international partners that provide technical and scientific expertise, including Reef Check, the University of Miami, Counterpart International, and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. The Partnership together possesses the leadership, technical capacity and organizational structure and dedication to successfully implement an integrated coastal management regime that can be replicated in the Dominican Republic and throughout the Caribbean.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions needed to grow our initiative are as following:

1. Obtain sufficient funding not only to effectively designate and operate the Punta Cana Coastal area as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) but also to cover the startup costs associated with providing the local fishermen with alternative sustainable livelihoods (the two major activities of the Punta Cana Integrated Coastal Management Program).

2. Once sufficient funding has been received the next action will be to implement the Punta Cana Integrated Coastal Management Program and test the efficacy of the program as a model of sustainable tourism on a local level.

3. Once refined and proven successful as a business model Grupo PUNTACANA will encourage other resorts and tourists destinations to adopt the program by printing a manual of best practices and offering free consultation on how to effectively implement the program.

These actions reflect the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation’s mission of finding local solutions to local problems that can then be scaled up and replicated throughout the region to effectively address some of the Caribbean’s most pressing problems.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In hindsight there were two distinct moments that led to the eventual formation of the Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas. The first of these moments came in August 2004 when Punta Cana's coastline was surveyed by the Ecological Foundation and the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), using the method of "Rapid Assessment of the Atlantic and Gulf Reef” (AGGRA by its acronym in English). The results of this survey only identified 10% coral cover and low biomass of fish, thus representing the lowest numbers in the Caribbean. In response to this surprisingly degraded ecological state the Ecological Foundation spearheaded an effort to form a coalition uniting the efforts of local communities, private companies, governmental actors, and nongovernmental institutions both local and international. The Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas, or PESCA as the group came to be known, dedicated themselves to creating workable solutions to combat the many threats facing the coastal and marine zones of Punta Cana.

The second defining moment came three years later in August 2007 when Punta Cana's coastline was surveyed again for the second time, using the same protocol. This time we found that the percentage of live coral cover had decreased drastically with the loss of more than 50% of live coral cover between 2004 and 2007 (only 4.4% of the reef now consisted of live coral cover). Likewise, there was a decrease in biomass and diversity of reef fishes.

These two distinct findings highlighted a crisis that continues to threaten the integrity of the coastal and marine resources of Punta Cana and the very future of tourism in the country’s area of greatest economic importance. After careful analysis of the unabated trend of ecological degradation PESCA determined that the leading cause was an increase in local fishing pressure to meet an ever rising demand created by a booming tourism industry. These findings clearly demonstrated that drastic action was needed and whatever the final solution maybe, it needed to include the local fishermen. Ultimately the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation came to the conclusion that a sweeping coastal management system needs to be installed and PESCA is the best positioned to effectively implement such a massive restructuring.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

In 2004, the Ecological Foundation in conjunction with partners such as Counterpart International, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami (RSMAS) and local organizations developed the project "Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas" (PESCA) in response to a startling survey of the area’s reef ecosystems. PESCA is a pioneering project that unites the efforts of a diverse array of governmental, private companies, and non-governmental international institutions to create workable solutions to the threats to coastal and marine zone of the tourist area of Punta Cana. Armed with the best scientific information available, PESCA seeks to implement integrated management plans, environmental education and training programs in order to protect and restore coastal areas in the long term.

The coastal region of Punta Cana is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caribbean. The various tourist destination townships comprising the larger “Punta Cana” region houses approximately 30,000 hotel rooms and provides an estimated 50,000 jobs. As such the region and has become one of the most significant economic developments in the Dominican Republic.

Though largely overlooked, Punta Cana owes the majority of its success as a tourist destination to its extensive coral reef that sits approximately a quarter mile off of the coast. Coral reefs in particular provide important services to the tourism industry: they produce the beautiful white sand beaches that the Caribbean is known for; reefs form a barrier that protects the beaches and property developments from severe weather and waves. Reefs also provide a habitat for economically important marine species and offer numerous recreational activities that generate economic opportunities for the local population. However, the reefs of the Caribbean, and especially the Dominican Republic, are threatened by several factors: indiscriminate development on the land, water quality issues and a complete lack of fishing regulations.

In one form or another, PESCA’s various members all depend on the local reef and they have joined forces to rehabilitate and sustain the delicate reef ecosystems by investigating and identifying the main problems affecting the coastal zone. PESCA offers scientifically viable and recommended solutions, and seeks to implement management plans that reduce the negative impacts, always working with key local actors, namely the local fishermen. Its mission is to protect and restore the ecosystem of the Punta Cana reef through the implementation of management practices involving local fishermen and other stakeholders in monitoring, regulation and conservation actions.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

The PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with an independent Board of Directors that receives financial support from private enterprises, donations, sponsorships, projects and awards. The Foundation receives regular financial and in-kind support from Grupo PUNTACANA for basic operating costs (salaries, insurance, electricity, water, expendable materials, vehicles, gas, etc) but must raise resources independently for its environmental initiatives. This guarantees that the majority of external funds received will be designated directly to support projects and the local community with little to no overhead fees. Recent contributors include Brugal Foundation, United Nation’s Small Grant Program (SGP), Hard Rock Café, CEMEX, Frohring Foundation, PADI AWARE, Banco Popular, Wendy’s, Airport Team Solutions, Caribbean Catering Services, Ambev, Manati Park, Jetblue, Swissport, and Air Transat.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below


What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training, Access to markets, Access to financing.

How will your project address this problem?

The PUNTACANA Integrated Coastal Management Program seeks to address each of the three problem areas listed above by testing PICMP’s efficacy of the program on a local scale. Once we have refined the program and proven it both ecologically sustainable and economically viable we will share it with the surrounding tourism destinations of the region. Specifically, PESCA and PCEF will first provide the local fishermen with access to training in sustainable fishing techniques, non-extractive ecotourism guide training (CPR fishing, fly fishing and underwater naturalist), first aide, Basic English language instruction and customer relations. With this knowledge the local fishermen will then be qualified to be eco-tour guides, that is to say guides in the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry. Funding from the 2010 Geotourism Challenge will provide the initial financing to help these various small to medium sized tourism enterprises with their start up costs and initial training. However, the new businesses will be encouraged to quickly become self sustaining and profitable as that is a crucial component to spreading the model to the surrounding region. Once PICMP is successfully established in Punta Cana, Grupo PUNTACANA will then use its influence to spread the model to the surrounding tourist destinations of Bavaro, Cabeza del Toro and Cap Cana in the hopes that we can convert the larger Punta Cana Reef into a model of sustainable development for the larger Caribbean.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Local Fishermen: 50 fishermen in total who in turn provide locally caught sea food to the foreign tourists (the “base” of the tourism value-chain)

Local eco-tour guides: 20 recently trained fishermen who will take foreign tourists on local excursions

Dive Center: 15 dive shop employees but an estimated 600 divers visiting annually. These tourists can play an active role in the reef restoration through voluntourism opportunities or simply come to admire the reef ecosystems.

Hotels: two premier hotels within Punta Cana proper, employing an estimated 500 persons. By rehabilitating the reef ecosystems the hotels are essentially seguring a constant stream of tourists because these ecosystems replenish the white sand beaches and the beautiful coastal ecosystems.

Tourists: (over two million tourists who visit the area annually) this comprises the top of the tourism value-chain. By securing the future of the reef we are in essence ensuring that tourists will continue the area.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

The truly innovative feature of this project is that it benefits all members and levels of the local tourism industry. At the micro level, the local fishermen will benefit by learning sustainable fishing techniques that will ensure that their catches, over the long run, will increase. In addition, the fishermen will be trained in alternative, potentially more lucrative, livelihoods such as Catch Picture & Release fishing guides. At the small to medium sized enterprises, such as restaurants and local ecotourism excursions, businesses will profit from selling sustainably caught fish while simultaneously capitalizing on a more ecologically diverse reef ecosystem. These small scale benefits will in turn translate into vital assets for the larger hotel businesses because a healthier reef ecosystem will attract more tourists and replenish the famous white sand beaches that are so badly eroding.

A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)