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Large-Scale Mangrove Restoration Project Begins in The Northern Bahamas

More than 6,000 mangroves were planted in the project’s first phase. PC: Justin Lewis

A new project to restore Bahamian mangrove forests destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in 2019 has been launched by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) and its partners Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Friends of the Environment and MANG, an environmental apparel brand that plants a mangrove for every product sold. Together, they seek to transplant up to 100,000 mangroves in the hardest hit areas with the help of Bahamian fishing guides, students and other volunteers.

“Mangroves are an essential part of the ecosystem that supports bonefish and other flats species,” said BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “They provide habitat for fish and other wildlife, prevent coastal erosion, and help buffer the communities where our friends and partners live against storms. BTT is pleased to be a part of this important work.”

This large-scale, five-year project, the first of its kind in the country, will target Abaco, Grand Bahama and surrounding cays. Scientific surveys completed last spring found that Hurricane Dorian damaged or destroyed nearly 74 percent of Grand Bahama’s mangroves and 40 percent of Abaco’s across an area of 35 square miles.

In partnership with BNT, BTT has drafted a comprehensive plan to help restore this critical flats habitat and put local fishing guides to work. Without such a plan, in the best-case scenario recovery would take over a decade, and in the most severely impacted locations, sites where seed banks were blown out, recovery may not occur at all. The first phase of the project commenced in December with the planting of 6,048 mangroves on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Mangroves serve as a buffer against storms, prevent coastal erosion, and provide important habitat for myriad fish species, including bonefish, a species vital to the Bahamas’ flats fishery, which generates $169 million annually for The Bahamas economy. The mangrove restoration effort began with a combination of mangrove propagules collected in The Bahamans and Florida, and seedlings grown in nurseries in both locations. MANG and BTT launched a statewide propagule collection campaign in Florida in October 2020, collecting an estimated 20,000 propagules. Moving forward, priority will be given to propagules and seedlings from The Bahamas, with Florida collections filling in the gaps in supply.

“An ocean without mangroves is like a world without air,” said Kyle Rossin, co-founder and CEO of MANG. Mangroves are the number one carbon sequestration tree in the world, and provide habitat for up to 70 percent of marine life. As an apparel brand dedicated to planting mangroves for every product we sell, we are donating over 100,000 mangroves propagules, seeds, and mature plants over the next five years to help restore these critical island lands. Our goal is to not only protect the island and it’s ecosystem through community-led planting events, but also to preserve the guide fishing economy and teach other organizations how to grow and maintain a mangrove nursery for long-term sustainability.”

To support the mangrove project, MANG and BTT are launching a new apparel collection February 2, 2021. The purchase of every shirt will fund the planting of a mangrove in the northern Bahamas, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit BTT.

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