For most of the last 40 years, since Cyclone Allen struck in 1980, the Cahouane mangroves on Haiti’s southern coast have been overexploited and degraded. By 2015, the mangrove’s bird species had all but disappeared due to snaring and theft, trees had been cut down for charcoal, and fish and shellfish stocks had plummeted.
However, thanks to a 2017-2019 Global Environment Facility-funded project implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Haitian Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and partners, there has been a remarkable turnaround, with a significant return to the mangrove of birds, fish and crustaceans, including wild ducks, water hens, eels and tadpoles.
With the support of UNEP and local partners, the government declared nine marine protected areas along the south coast, including La Cahouane, in 2013.
Mangrove ecosystems are important for regulating natural processes and maintaining the biological diversity of coastal areas, say experts. Apart from being spawning grounds for fish, they mitigate storm surges and store twice as much carbon as rainforests, thus slowing global heating. In Haiti they are an important source of food for migratory birds. Haitians also benefit from mangrove honey, which keeps for a long time and is rich in vitamins.
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