PEPILLO SALCEDO, Dominican Republic ( Associated Press) — In a blue bay bordering Haiti and the Dominican Republic, fishermen from both countries sparked complaints in a rare face-to-face meeting recently thanks to the efforts of marine biologist Jean Wiener .
The meeting, under the supervision of Dominican naval officers with rifles, was no small feat for Wiener, who, because of the rampant violence in Haiti, his homeland, from his home in Bethesda, Maryland – from a distance of this biologically sensitive area. have been forced to work on conservation. Now the award-winning biologist stood at the mouth of a place called the Massacre River in the Caribbean heat, trying to bring the two sides together and find a solution that would not only save their livelihoods but also vital marine resources in a region. pressure from climate change.
“The persistent overfishing, or overfishing, in these areas has destroyed an entire ecosystem,” said Rodolfo Jiménez, director of an agricultural border project in the Dominican Republic.
The Haitian fishermen standing in front of Jimenez on the beach agreed. But he also said he was not to blame for the damage in Monte Cristi National Park in the northwestern Dominican Republic.
Wiener work has become important in Haiti in large part because of charcoal vendors, who cut down trees for cooking fuel and, more recently, depleted the country’s mangroves, the tropical vegetation that is native to the Caribbean. A natural barrier against destructive storms.
It was the first visit since November 2021 for Wiener, leader of the Foundation for the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity, whose absence is largely attributed to the violent gangs that have besieged the Haitian capital in recent years. nominally already in place and with the assassination of President Jovanel Moises in 2021, the government has done little to gain control from the gangs.
For years, Wiener used to visit Haiti every month or so, but now restricts his visits to only a few times a year, while being forced to work remotely and assign more responsibility to staff members spread across the country. hands over. Otherwise Haiti is very dangerous. So when he arrives, as he did for three weeks in March, he hops the country via puddle-jumper plane; Traveling by road is very dangerous.
It’s a puzzle that haunts Jean and others like her around the world. Since climate change plays a large role in contributing to conflicts, this in turn makes it more difficult to conduct scientific research and work on environmental projects that try to address the effects of climate change. Environmental group Global Witness released a report last year that said a record number of environmental activists died around the world in 2020; The death toll of 227 was the highest number recorded for the second year in a row, with Colombia having the most recorded attacks, with 65, and Mexico in second place, with 30.
Peter Gleick, a Senior Fellow and Emeritus President of the Pacific Institute, said, “How difficult the failing states make it difficult for scientists and the international scientific community to work on these issues simply means these problems are more difficult to solve.” Will happen.” An Oakland-based research group focused on water issues.
In several reports released in October, the US indicated that climate change would play a central role in the security strategy, a policy shift that underscores how climate change is exacerbating long-standing problems. One of the studies identified 11 countries that were of “greatest concern” as being particularly vulnerable to climate change and unable to deal with the attendant problems. Among them was Haiti.
The Caribbean nation has the most travel advice from the US State Department due to kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest. The kidnapping, the State Department says, “is widespread and victims regularly include US citizens.”
The kidnappings have continued for years, increasing in importance following the 2017 departure of the UN peacekeeping mission. In October, a group of missionaries were kidnapped by a powerful gang and held for ransom.
The march met at the mouth of a river with a name that dates back to a bloody episode on the island of Hispaniola: the Massacre River, also the Dajabon River. Although it was named for an earlier massacre, it is mostly known for the time when Dominican soldiers killed thousands of Haitian families and Haitian-born Dominicans in 1937.
Opposition to Haitians persists today, at least with Dominican President Luis Abinedar’s new plan to build a multimillion-dollar, 118-mile (190-kilometer) wall along the border.
In the end, the March trip to Haiti proved incidentally uneventful – although the danger was not far off.
When Wiener toured the southwestern part of the country, his driver got wind of the protesters’ plans to storm the local airport. The attack didn’t happen until Wiener took off, a few days later: people ran to the tarmac and set a small plane on fire.
One day during his recent trip to northern Haiti, Wiener taught snorkeling lessons. While swimming in the surf, a pufferfish came swimming towards the group.
Wiener gently picked up the barbed fish with both hands, went out a few steps and sent the pufferfish into the sea.
“We really know there’s a part, you know, where you can be in class,” Wiener later told the hotel, where some security guards were patrolling the grounds. “But it’s critically important that people really get out and touch and see and feel the environment.”
Associated Press journalist Trenton Daniels reported from New York.
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