The Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR) dates back to 1988 when the local community of Sandy Bay united and proposed the creation of a managed marine reserve to protect the shoreline and marine habitats in the waters adjacent to its shore. In April of 1989, the Sandy Bay Marine Reserve (SBMR) was officially designated, encompassing an area of about 6 km between Lawson’s Rock and Gibson Bight.
In September 1993, the communities of West End and West Bay agreed to extend the SBMR from Gibson Bight all the way around to the western tip of the island, to an area known as Key Hole on the south side. Currently, the Reserve encompasses 13 km of coastline and its boundaries extend from the high watermark down to 60 m in depth.
In the mid 90’s the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), was requested assistance with the maintenance of the Reserve and a management agreement was signed with the Government of Honduras to manage the Reserve. Later in 2005, the local diving communities of Sandy Bay, West End and West Bay joined the cause and created the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Park association (SBWEMP).
The primary goals of this grassroots organization were to work together in a collaborative “bottom-up” effort in order to tackle some of the problems affecting the Reserve: over-fishing and poaching, lack of formal management and governmental support at national and local levels, the increase in marine recreation activity, and the consequences of unprecedented and often unregulated coastal development.
Initially, financial contributions from local dive shops and businesses funded the purchase of 2 boats, engines and paid the salaries of 4 employees. Each boat was staffed with a boat captain and a local police officer who patrolled the Reserve from morning till night, 7 days a week. Recently, our activities have expanded to include an education program for local schools, an extensive marine infrastructure program, designing and implementing tourist education programs, facilitating community involvement and leadership, and financing three patrol boats and 7 full time members of staff, not including the National Police we employ.
The organization has matured from an idea into a reality within a short time, focusing on anthropogenic threats not just within the Reserve, but around the island. Therefore, the name “Roatan Marine Park” (RMP) was selected as a replacement for the SBWEMP. This was to reflect the expansion of our vision for the community and environment of Roatan as a whole, in an effort to provide sustainable resources from which we could all benefit.