News Updates

We are in the World’s 2nd Longest Barrier Reef!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Do you know where the longest barrier reef is located? It is found in Australia and it is called the Great Barrier Reef. It is so long it can even be seen from space. Ours, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), is 900 km long- 1/3 of the Great Barrier Reef- which is 2,000 km long. Roatán forms the southernmost part of the MBRS which extends all the way from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula down to Belize, Guatemala and ends up in the Bay Islands of Honduras. The MBRS is unique in its biological diversity and socio-economic importance as a source of subsistence for coastal communities.

Protected areas located in the MBRS contribute to the stabilization and protection of the coastal landscape, maintaining the quality of coastal water, and they are a place for the feeding and reproduction of marine mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, many of which are of commercial importance. Also, the marine species are part of a large connectivity linkage. Unfortunately, there are a growing number of threats to the MBRS, from increased sedimentation from deforestation, overfishing of large predators and herbivores, and nutrients from untreated waste waters. All these impacts lessen the resilience of coral reef ecosystems.

Therefore, it’s urgent to ensure a sustainable management of the region’s marine natural resources. The countries within the MBRS have committed and declared the rescue, restoration, conservation and effective management. For this reason policies and regulations are being promoted at the regional and national levels and are being applied from the island of Contoy in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula, to the Bay Islands of Honduras. Locally, the Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve is being managed by the Roatán Marine Park, through the promotion of research, education and conservation of our island’s valuable reefs.


SEAGRASS – THE FORGOTTEN ECOSYSTEM

Friday, March 19th, 2010

To create the “turquoise water and white sand beach” image that is printed on every postcard and advertisement in the Caribbean, hotels and resorts continue to remove seagrass. In addition to extracting it from the water, hotels and businesses either bury washed up vegetation or place it in plastic bags bound for the dump. This is done to create a more aesthetically pleasing swimming environment with the belief that seagrasses harbor organisms harmful to swimmers. Seagrasses, however, are an economically and ecologically crucial marine habitat. The same seagrasses that are removed for being unsightly actually protect the white sand beaches and tropical waters that draw tourists to our island.

 People should know that waters lacking sediment and nutrients are better for coral reef health. Seagrasses reduce impacts of sewage and run-off on corals by absorbing much of the nutrients before they reach the reef zone. Seagrasses also reduce wave power, thereby consolidating sediments and minimising coastal erosion. A recent study in Mauritius found that beachside hotels that removed seagrass became the victims of their own innovation. In as little as a year, beaches had entirely disappeared due to coastal erosion. The fishing industry also benefits from the existence of seagrasses. They provide shelter for juvenile grouper, snapper, conch and lobster, and are an important food source for adult fish, helping to keep fishing sustainable.

 Coral reefs are designed to benefit from occasional natural disturbances such as hurricanes. But human degradation of Roatan’s reef and associated habitats (upon which tourism success depends) is reducing its ability to recover from such events. The potential result–ecological and economic collapse, perhaps as soon as the next major hurricane.

 While authorities fail to enforce environmental laws, developers need to take on more of a moral responsibility to ensure that their activities are not damaging the natural resources that bring people to the island.


Plastic Soup

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Although Honduran law states that all plastic brought to Roatan must be removed from the island, Roatan’s coast is awash with a toxic “plastic soup.” Plastic bags are used for an average of just 20 minutes before being dumped, and can take centuries to rot. Millions spread like urban tumbleweed through towns before ending up in the sea. Plastic waste in the oceans kills around 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other large animals each year. An estimated one million seabirds also die from strangulation, choking or starvation after eating seaborne plastic. Once an afflicted animal’s body has rotted, the bag is released back into the sea, to kill again and again.

The sheer volume of plastic in Roatan’s waters is appalling. It is an utter disgrace. People have often fought over fishing rights, claiming “ownership” over popular fishing grounds, but when it comes to protecting marine wildlife from plastic pollution, people’s sense of ownership and responsibility mysteriously fades. Isn’t it our responsibility to prevent these animals from becoming the victims of our careless, plastic bag culture? After all, there are perfectly adequate substitutes.

Pilot studies in the UK have successfully demonstrated that society CAN flourish without plastic bags. Major British supermarket chains have launched a “bags for life” policy. These are replaced free of charge by the store when they wear out and recycled. And it’s not just developed nations: In India people can now be jailed for seven years just for carrying a plastic bag.

Where major corporations have taken the initiative, it has encouraged millions of people to change their behavior. This initiative could easily be applied here too. It is absolutely vital that we urge all stores to act responsibly, possibly introducing a small charge for plastic bags. However, we as consumers must also change our attitude – bring our own bag! It is time to break the carrier bag habit. It’s not difficult, it’s not painful, but it IS responsible.


Comparing Lobsters

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

It is common for tourists visiting Roatan to sample the local seafood delicacies, yet according to Seafood WATCH, a guide to smart seafood decisions, it is recommended that many of these species should be avoided.  In this publication, the Spiny Caribbean Lobsters, Grouper and Queen Conch harvested from the Caribbean are red listed (AVOID) while spiny lobsters harvested from the U.S. are recommended.  This difference is due to the U.S. lobster fishery’s strict guidelines, attentive management and extensive monitoring; programs that are sorely lacking in Honduras and the Caribbean.  Harvesting of lobsters without any discrimination of size, number, season or age is a common practice among fishermen in the Bay Islands, all of which are restricted guidelines under Honduran Law which are rarely enforced and never advertised.  All of these factors have led to a virtual crash in lobster populations, placing them on the brink of annihilation in the Bay Islands and cutting their range in half within the Caribbean.

        According to these laws, it is prohibited to harvest spiny lobsters with tails shorter than 14.5cm (5.5 inches). This minimum catch size has been established in order to allow all lobsters an opportunity to achieve sexual maturity and reproduce at least once.  This is an essential strategy as lobsters keep the reef clean.  Imagine a sustainable, well managed lobster fishery where a single harvested adult lobster represents one full meal plus 100s or 1000s of offspring.  Now compare that image to a plate with oversized portions of potatoes and veggies accompanied by 2 cell phone-sized lobster tails.  Which option is best for the restaurant, our fishermen, Honduran tourism, the lobster population and the health of the reef?  If our fishermen refuse to discriminate, then it is our responsibility to so for the future of Roatan.


Cozumel in Roatan’s Future

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Cozumel is Mexico’s largest island, nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, measuring in at 28 miles long & only 10 miles wide. Cozumel itself was a sleepy little fishing community until 1961, when Jacques Cousteau declared the island one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world. By 1970, Cozumel’s population had reached 10,000 and today the island boasts a population of more than 75,000. Over the years, the recreational scuba industry grew and Cozumel became a Mecca for divers with visitor numbers swelling annually. In recent years, the cruise ship industry has boomed, and with the island being the gateway to the Caribbean, ships now deliver an estimated 10,000 people daily to this once quiet island.

Once regarded as the jewel of Mexico for its pristine reefs, due to unregulated development and unsustainable practices, the reefs fringing the island have rapidly degraded and the island’s main tourist attraction has shifted from diving to golf. From a paradise to an environmentalist’s nightmare in a manner of a few decades, one must wonder, “Is Roatan on the road to a similar fate? “While those living on Roatan would never dream of comparing our island with Cozumel, the reality may be gradually emerging as more and more tourists visit the island. With direct international flights, the Bay Islands are no longer only accessible to backpackers but cruise-shippers, day trippers and jet-setters alike. With the building of additional docks to accommodate yet more cruise ships and the continuous sprouting up of new developments, this island paradise is rapidly reflecting Cozumel’s blunder. As the island evolves and the concrete is laid, how can we carelessly dismiss Roatan’s tropical splendor and magnificent reefs? It is time to truly demand that we “Keep Roatan Beautiful.”


RMP in the News: A Real Drag

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The Roatan Marine Park appeared in an article published in TheCrewReport.com entitled A Real Drag, Part II by Juliet Benning.

The article discusses the severe and irreperable damage caused by anchor damage, including a high-profile case that occured in the Roatan Marine Park in March 2009.

Download A Real Drag, Part II here [PDF, 840kB]


Welcome to the new Marine Park website!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Welcome to the new official website of the Roatan Marine Park!

Completely redesigned from the ground up, the new website offers up-to-date information about the community outreach, education, and research efforts of the Roatan Marine Park. Find out how our patrols help reduce illegal poaching around the island. Learn about the laws and legislation protecting the incredible but fragile marine ecosystem surrounding our island. Take a look at the environmentally-friendly products available in our Eco Store, where all proceeds go to help protect Roatan’s reef.

That’s not all! Our new website makes it easier than ever for you to help the Roatan Marine Park achieve our goals. Now you can use our simple online forms to report problems with our moorings infrastructure and help us hunt down lionfish invading our reef. Donating to our cause has never been easier: just click the ‘Donate’ button on the upper left of any page to send a safe, secure donation of your choosing directly to us.

Want to learn more about our island? Explore over 170 of the dive sites surrounding the island using our custom-designed interactive map powered by Google Maps. You just might discover a your new favorite place to splash in!

Given that this website has just been launched, there may be a few bugs lingering around in the code. If you encounter any problems using this website, please send an email to the website administrator at steve@thescubageek.com.

We hope you enjoy the new official website of the Roatan Marine Park! Please contact us at info@roatanmarinepark.net and let us know what you think!