Massive mangrove restoration projects aims to speed Bahamas recovery

Cooperative efforts seeks to plant 100,000 mangrove seedlings in the next 5 years
mangrove restoration bahamas
Photo: Justin Lewis

Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas in early September of 2019, thrashing the islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama with unrelenting winds, rain and storm surge. The devastation the storm inflicted on both islands—destroying airports, sweeping away hotels and fishing lodges, and leveling entire neighborhoods—was catastrophic and absolute. But impacts to the Bahamas from Dorian weren’t limited to its human toll. The storm also caused extensive damage to the natural environments of the hardest hit Bahamian islands. Perhaps most notable was the damage done to the ecologically crucial mangrove forests that ring the Bahamas’ islands and cays.

“Mangroves are an essential part of the ecosystem that supports bonefish and other flats species,” explained Bonefish Tarpon & Trust 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.”

A recent scientific survey revealed that Dorian damaged or destroyed nearly 74 percent of Grand Bahama’s and 40 percent of Abaco’s mangroves. In order to combat this damage, and speed recovery, a new mangrove restoration project is seeking to transplant as many as 100,000 mangrove seedlings to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian.

The project is a partnership between Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment, and apparel brand MANG — whose “Buy One. Plant One.®” initiative makes mangrove restoration an everyday part of their business model.

mangrove restoration bahamas
Photo: Justin Lewis

“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.”

Mangrove restoration begins with the collection of mangrove propagules—which take different forms depending on the type of mangrove—which are then grown into seedlings before being planted in the wild. The Dorian restoration project kicked off with a propagule collection campaign that MANG and BTT launched this past October in Florida. An estimated 20,000 mangrove propagules were collected. Moving forward, the project will prioritize propagules collected in the Bahamas, and opt to use Florida-borne mangroves only when necessary.

To help fund and support the project, MANG and BTT have launched a slick new apparel collection. As is germane to MANG’s mission, the purchase of each shirt from the collection will result in the planting of a mangrove seedling on one of the islands impacted by Hurricane Dorian. A portion of the proceeds will also go to help fund BTT’s work.