February 3, 2014 – In commemoration of World Wetlands Day, the Sandals Foundation joined the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust in replanting 104 red mangrove saplings within an estuary, created where Montego River and South Gully meet the sea.
Spearheaded by the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust, the mangrove replanting exercise, which took place Saturday, is the first of several activities to be undertaken as part of a coastal restoration project within the parish of Saint James. The activity was also facilitated through partnerships with the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, C-Fish Fund, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheres and local fishing co-ops.
Often referred to as ‘cradles of life’, wetlands are saturated areas that prevent flooding; the erosion of our coastlines; and serve as a nursery and habitat for juvenile fish and other marine life.
“We believe in preserving ecosystems, such as the wetlands, along with private and public sector entities that share a common goal of protecting our natural resources. The Sandals Foundation is pleased to partner with the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust on this initiative,” said Heidi Clarke, director of programmes for the Sandals Foundation, which also promotes the preservation of the wetlands in Nassau, Bahamas through its Ride To Save The Wetlands excursion to the Bonefish National Park.
Prior to the first replanting activity, volunteers also collected 400 pounds of garbage from areas surrounding the estuary and later gathered at the River Bay Fishing Village for an informative presentation on wetlands and the invasion of the lionfish.
“Coastlines and wetlands in Montego Bay have been threatened greatly by human activity, from land filling and dredging activities that accompanied commercial developments since the 1960s to present-day agricultural practices and inefficient management of solid waste,” said Joshua Bailey, outreach officer for the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust.
“As a result of these activities, this area currently suffers from high levels of nutrification and large amounts of marine litter. With [the replanting] we hope to restore the natural ecological functions of this area and contribute to the overall improvement of the wetlands within the Montego Bay Marine Park.”
Among the long term objectives is the reduction of soil and sand erosion; the provision of a natural nursery for marine life; and a filter for water entering the Marine Park.
The Montego Bay Marine Park Trust – with the expertise of its scientific officer and colleagues from the Discovery Bay Marine Lab – is expected to further manage the project by conducting monthly visits to the site to trim surrounding vegetation, and monitor the growth and development of the trees.