Nearly one year after applying for permits to begin executing its mangrove restoration project in East Grand Bahama, Waterkeepers Bahamas finally received the documents, and teams are now well on their way to growing the plants which will replenish the mangrove forests severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
“We finally got our permits, so we are in full force collecting propagules,” said environmentalist Joseph Darville, of Waterkeepers Bahamas.
Technically, mangrove seeds are called “propagules” because, unlike most other plant seeds, mangrove propagules germinate while still on the tree.
Waterkeepers Bahamas is committed to planting 30,000 mangrove propagules by the end of the year.
“We already have close to 6,000 collected and potted,” Darville said.
“We have teams out in the field working diligently to collect as many as possible, so we can reach our 30,000 goal and, hopefully, by the end of August and [beginning of] September, we can begin the transplanting into devastated areas where the mangroves used to be.”
Last month, Grand Bahama News reported that that project may be at risk, after Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham explained that the Department of Environmental Protection and Planning (DEPP) had refused the organization’s permit application, due to a change in legislation.
However, after contacting the Forestry Unit and speaking with Acting Director Danielle Hanek, it was discovered that Waterkeepers’ applications were under review and department officials were confirming the validity of the project.
“We have responsibility of mangrove species because it is on the protected tree order listing. So, we are trying to push out the permit in a timely fashion,” Hanek said back in June.
Darville, who was excited after receipt of the permits, said, “Having paid for it almost a year ago September, now we are going ahead.
“Right now, we have about 12 teams out and we are doing backyard nurseries. There are some good rewards for the team that has the greatest and prettiest and most healthy-looking nursery.”
Competing teams can win a minimum cash prize of $2,000 for their efforts.
Teams registered in May during the launch of Mangrove Mania -– a competition engaging students, civic groups and corporate organizations to grow the propagules. The teams have undergone training on how to collect propagules, setting up a nursery and replanting.
“They are being taught how to gather the propagules, which are the right ones to pick, shaking the trees for the propagules to drop, and more,” Darville said.
“We are hoping that we can have over 30,000, which is our goal, by the end of August, beginning of September.
“By the middle of September or the first of October, we will begin transplanting in the areas which were destroyed. We are already well attuned to exactly where they should be planted, so even if there was a surge, they will not be uprooted.”
More than 70 percent of the mangroves’ wetland was destroyed because of severe storm flooding in 2019.
Darville said that Waterkeepers engaged experts from around the world who deal with the distinct species of mangrove, among the 75 of which are known internationally.
“We have just four types (red, black, white and buttonwood) here,” he said.
“Of course, they floated here from elsewhere a long time ago and it is a mystery how they have put themselves to use there for protecting the land and the coastal area.”
Darville noted that the replanting project is an expensive undertaking.
He invited companies to financially support the restoration exercise.
“The grant we have right now only covers Dover Sound area where we will begin initially,” he said.
“So, any individual or organization willing to donate funds, just for material – soil, containment areas, shelters and so forth — we are not talking about salaries, just material that is needed; please assist in this regard.”
Waterkeepers Bahamas, a non-profit organization, says it is committed to preserving and protecting the Bahamian environment through proactive policy change, education, legal action and advocacy.
“This is an exciting job,” Darville said.
“I love Mother Earth and how she feeds us in so many different ways.”